| Fadhil Yunus |
FOUR of the country’s elite swimmers were honoured during the Brunei Amateur Swimming Association (BASA) Achievement Award Presentation event at the Saffron Restaurant in Kiulap yesterday for their record-breaking feats in setting swimming national open records.
Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Awang Haji Aminuddin Ihsan bin Pehin Orang Kaya Saiful Mulok Dato Seri Paduka Haji Abidin was the guest of honour at the event.
The four national swimmers who set the national open records were Ashley Chai, Muhammad Isa Ahmad, Christian Nikles and Nur Haziq Samil.
Ashley Chai, fresh after her Youth Olympic Games stint in October 2018 in Buenos Aires, Argentina went on to break the short course records in the 100m butterfly and 100m IM with times of 1:10:04s and 1:12:52s, respectively at the 3rd ISB Sprints on November 25, 2018. She is currently training under Coach Victor at the Royal Brunei Recreation Club (RBRC) pool.
Muhammad Isa broke four national open records within a span of three months. In September, during the 7th Brunei Open (Long Course) Swimming Championships, he broke the 50m breaststroke and 200m IM with times of 30.51s and 2:19:40s, respectively.
In the recent 14th FINA World Swimming Championships (Short course) in Hangzhou from December 11-16, 2018, he broke the 50m and 100m breaststroke with times of 29.65s and 1:04.45s respectively. He is based in the United Kingdom and will continue his training there.
Christian Nikles broke two short course records in the 100m backstroke and 100m IM with a time of 1:05.33s and 1:01.41s respectively during the Carnegie Winter Open in the UK on October 27-28, 2018. Similar to Muhammad Isa, Christian also trains in the United Kingdom.
After Nikles exploits in the pool, Nur Haziq Samil broke his 100m backstroke (SC) during the 3rd ISB Sprints with a new record of 1:04.79s.
Nur Haziq was not present during the event as he is currently undergoing training under the FINA Development Scholarship for one year at the FINA Training Center in the Thanyapura Resort in Phuket, Thailand. He is the first Bruneian to be awarded a full FINA scholarship. Receiving the awards is his coach from Brunei Speed Swimming Club, Coach Haji Yussof.
Vice President of BASA Ahmad bin Pehin Orang Kaya Laila Setia Bakti Diraja Dato Laila Utama Haji Awang Isa, in his welcoming remarks, said that BASA wanted to introduce an initiative that recognises the efforts and sacrifices made by local swimmers in the pursuit of success.
“Therefore, we decided that the monetary award of BND300 to be offered to any Bruneian swimmer breaking any current Brunei National Open swimming record. The initiative was launched during the Brunei Darussalam National Games (SKBD) this year,” the vice president said.
“While it is a small token of amount, it is BASA’s hope that may become the source of motivation for our swimmers to aim for greater heights and continue push his or her boundaries towards swimming excellence,” he further added.
“The success of our swimmers not only depends on their efforts but also on the support and efforts of their parents, their clubs, coaches and the whole network that swimming requires to succeed.”
Christian Nikles echoed the minister’s sentiment of the increased popularity of swimming in society.
“It is good that the profile of swimming as a sport in Brunei is being raised. There is more people being involved and more people being aware. It is a good sign for the future and there is going to be more kids involved in swimming,” he told the Bulletin.
“There will be more swimmers and more potential medallists. It is nice to see the path opening up for the future.”
Looking ahead, Nikles will set his sights on the World Championships in July and the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games at the end of the year.
Nikles also added that the monetary reward serves as motivation to improve the level of swimming in the country.
The 21-year-old will return to the United Kingdom to continue his training and has already been notified by his coach about an entry at the West District meet where he will be competing in the 50m freestyle, 50m butterfly and 200m freestyle events.
“I will be training in the United Kingdom until April, and in April I’ll have the Dutch Swim Cup in Eindhoven. After that, I will be coming back to Brunei,” he added.
Muhammad Isa also shared that the monetary reward also served as motivation for the swimmers.
“The monetary reward gives us motivation not only for me but swimmers younger than me. It is good because before you only have bragging rights but this time you have something physical at least,” said Muhammad Isa.
Asked on his personal thoughts about the minister’s views on the increased popularity of swimming in Brunei, he said, “I agree with what the minister said. Swimming is more popular now. A lot of people are going to the stadium to swim.
“A lot of people recognise swimming is good for the body because of fitness so that helps as well.
“The minister saying it and reiterating helps and motivates me because seeing someone in that position to say something like that wanting you to be successful is nice.”
Meanwhile, Ashley Chai has set her sights on a national open record in the 100m backstroke.
“I’ve been trying to break the record from Hamizah (Nur Hamizah Ahmad) for a very long time,” said Ashley.
“I feel very motivated, honoured and proud to be representing my country. I am also honoured that the minister recognised my efforts and hard work,” added Ashley, whose pet event is in the backstroke event.