Monday, March 4, 2024
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Playing a crucial role

Fadhil Yunus

The availability of foreign coaches in Brunei Darussalam’s sporting community has greatly influenced the development of national athletes, especially those who excelled in the regional and international arena.

Foreign coaches possess a unique and distinctive coaching style and are usually armed with valuable expertise and vast knowledge of their field of specialisation based on international norms and practices.

Quite often athletes who gain success receive plaudits and adulation, but it is the critical role of foreign coaches behind the scene that may come unnoticed and should be similarly recognised.

Their modern approaches and systems to coaching could go a long way in shaping national athletes and teams with an improved technique and better attributes associated with the sport.

The coaching methods – which alter the movement of athletes during training – could also weigh in the quality of their overall performance when they compete internationally.

Traditionally, it can be argued that their know-how and clear direction is derived from years of examining the mechanics of the sport at great length. A foreign coach is also likely to have a well-respected background, whether they come from a sporting institution or an established professional career as an athlete.

As demonstrated in recent times, foreign coaches have the ability to guide athletes that are identified as having a potential into ones who are competitive and capable of challenging their fellow peers.

In ensuring the growth of various sports in the country in parallel with comparable nations, Brunei Darussalam has made an initiative to secure quality and experienced foreign coaches over the years.

While making a deep run in major international meets and closing the timing gap remain a work-in-progress, the arrival of national swimming coach Wu Na has yielded results, particularly with Muhammad Isa bin Ahmad.

The national swimmer currently holds the national record in the 100m breaststroke event with a time of 1:04.09s and the 50m breaststroke event with a time of 29.32s in the 15th FINA World Swimming Championships in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates last December.

During the 2019 Southeast Asian Games in Manila, Philippines, he became the first Bruneian swimmer to break the sub-30 second barrier in the 50m breaststroke after clocking a time of 29.87s.

The coach’s training insights and perspectives led to a change in training patterns for the swimmers than they were previously accustomed to and her demands helped push athletes into bettering their times.

Muhammad Isa’s time in Manila came just months after posting a time of 30.03s in the 18th FINA (Long Course) World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea.

In football, former national head coach Kwon Oh-son led Brunei Darussalam’s under-21 team to glory in the Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy in 2012.

He was responsible for the emergence of the country’s leading players who would later form as a backbone in the DPMM FC’s squad and also the national senior team.

The South Korean also led the national team to fourth place in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Solidarity Cup in Kuching, Malaysia four years later.

In club football, foreign coaches Adrian Pennock and Steve Kean etched their name in DPMM FC’s history books after helping them to the Singapore Premier League (SPL) title in 2019 and 2015, respectively.

Wushu has also enjoyed considerable success in the regional arena particularly the Southeast Asian Games and the SUKMA Games.

Much of the success is owed to Brunei national coach Li Hui who has helped transform potential athletes into proven medalists. During his tenure, he had overseen the rise of several national athletes, most recently Basma Lachkar and Mohammad Adi Salihin bin Roslan.

Both athletes have enjoyed success in the regional stage with Mohammad Adi Salihin winning the gold medal in the men’s taolu combined nandao and nangun event and Basma Lachkar winning two silver medals in back-to-back Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.

Meanwhile, central to the progression of national runners Muhammad Noor Firdaus Ar-Rasyid bin Haji Mohd Idris and Muhammad Fakhri bin Ismail was the outgoing national athletics coach Isidro Del Prado.

The mid-2010s marked an exciting period for athletics following the performances of the country’s leading sprinters overseas with Isidro at the heart of their success.

In 2015, Muhammad Fakhri set a new national record en route to a final round appearance in the SEA Games in Singapore before advancing to the heat rounds later that year in the World Championships in Beijing.

Two years later, Muhammad Noor Firdaus achieved a similar feat when his passage to the final round of the 200m event was accompanied with a new national record at the same competition in Kuala Lumpur.

In 2019, Muhammad Noor Firdaus won the silver medal at the 81st Singapore Open Track and Field Championships before advancing to the semi-final round in the 100m event of the Asian Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar.

He also broke his personal best in the 100m twice and was just shy of national record holder Muhammad Fakhri.

In netball, Jane Searle guided the national team to a bronze medal in the SEA Games in 2019, continuing the success from the teams- bronze medalists in 2015 and 2017- led by Thilaka Jinadasa.

Also in the list of foreign coaches is Brunei fencing coach Rocky Poerawinata – one of the longest serving coaches in the country. He has played an influential role in establishing the career of national fencer Hajah Anis Sabrina binti Haji Yahya.

Under the Indonesian’s guidance, Hajah Anis bagged silver in the 3rd Asean University Fencing Championship in Malaysia in 2019.

The coach also oversaw the respective successes of the women’s sabre team who earned a bronze medal in the Southeast Asian Fencing Federation Championship and Anaqi Danish Asahrin won bronze in the men’s individual sabre event.

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