Wednesday, May 31, 2023
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Eager to represent

Fadhil Yunus

In aligning with the country’s vision to promote the development of sports, Brunei Darussalam supports and encourages active participation of national athletes in both minor and major competitions.

This is evident with the numerous athletes representing the country across a spectrum of sports over the years especially in multi-sport meets, whether at a regional, continental or global level.

As the country starts to confidently send athletes for regional and international meets, this could also apply to competitions that do not involve national athletes but the everyday citizen.

Recently, there have been instances where competitions become a primary purpose for travel. This emphasises the lure of organisers bringing popular events to international participants, with Brunei not an exception.

It would be incomplete if there was no mention of renowned local runner Sefli Ahar who had been actively participating in the regional and international circuit.

His long list of achievements include first place in the 42-kilometre (km) veteran category at the Borneo International Marathon 2016 in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia.

The decorated runner clocked an impressive time of 2:51.27s and was the only runner in his category that registered a sub three-hour mark.

His nearest rival Briton Michael Morris managed a time of 3:06.35s and third-placed Thai Prasoet Phaisan with a time of 3:09.18s.

More often than not, participation from Bruneians in these events demonstrates the values of our people, especially willpower and strength under tumultuous conditions.

Over the past years, there have been inspirational stories where local participants braved unforgiving climates that defied the barriers of mental and physical fortitude.

In February 2019, local ultra-marathon enthusiast Ahmad Fathi bin Dato Paduka Haji Junaidi became the first Bruneian to take part in the Yukon Arctic Ultra in Canada. He completed a distance of 300km under freezing temperatures below 37 degrees Celsius.

His accomplishment was not left unnoticed as race organiser Robert Pollhammer said, “Ahmad Fathi is the first athlete from Brunei Darussalam to ever have tried this (competing in the Yukon Arctic Ultra).

Pollhammer added, “He is in great shape too. He had a very good race strategy and his layer management was excellent.”

Apart from Canada, Ahmad Fathi also boasts experience in countries such as Japan, France, New Zealand, Australia, Thailand and Hong Kong.

Ahmad Fathi is no stranger to writing history, having also carved his name in the country’s historic books as the first Bruneian to take part in the Ultraman Australia in Noosa in 2015.

The ultra-marathon enthusiast also sealed a runners-up finish in the 100km category of the Sabah Marathon in 2014.

Before the world was struck by the COVID-19 pandemic, there had been a surge of ultra-trail participants joining international meets such as the Borneo Ultra Trail Marathon (BUTM) 2020 in Kota Kinabalu.

During the event, local runner Meo Romero of Kiasu Runners scored a top-50 finish, having finished 49th out of 92 finishers in the 100-mile event. He also placed 11th in the men’s veteran category and became the country’s highest finisher that year.

Another notable figure that has been active in the international circuit is none other than veteran trail runner Matnarudin Ibrahim. He was awarded as the eldest Bruneian to compete and finish in the 200km TiTi Ultra Road Run by the Brunei Book of Records.

Matnarudin was also the oldest Bruneian to compete and finish in the most number of Ultra Marathons with distances of between 50km and 200km.

Besides ultra-marathons, there has been an increasing number of Spartan or obstacle course racing over the last few years.

The popularity of Spartan races spreading across Southeast Asia, particularly the Philippines, Thailand and Malaysia has made it accessible and convenient in terms of making arrangements for competitions.

Today’s Spartan event in Miri is also expected to see an encouraging number of Bruneians travelling to the neighbouring state.

Last year, dozens of Bruneians registered for Spartan races as well a new competition called Deka – a new indoor format as an alternative to the outdoor Spartan races.

There has also been a growing interest of CrossFit Games events over the years looking at the number of local enthusiasts venturing the discipline in the country.

With Hyrox – a functional fitness competition designed to test a participant to the limit – reaching these shores this year, it is probable and anticipated that Bruneians will also be making their debut.

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