Brunei Darussalam’s athletes seek sporting excellence and opportunities in the regional and international scene to not only serve the interest of making their homeland proud, but also put the country on the sporting map.
Over the past decades, numerous national athletes across a spectrum of disciplines have enjoyed mixed fortunes, armed with the same intention of representing the country at the highest possible level.
For a sports-mad nation labelled as an underdog in every competition, there is no surprise that it is an athlete’s ambition to take on the very best and one way of accomplishing the goal is to stage a deep run in every event they enter.
A number of athletes have also crossed paths with iconic sporting figures after being drawn in the same match specifically in badminton and short distance running.
During the annual World Athletics Championships in Beijing in 2015, Brunei’s sole representative Muhammad Fakhri bin Ismail’s reward for qualifying to the heats round was sharing the same race with multiple-time athletic champion Usain Bolt.
In April 2016, former national badminton athlete Jaspar Yu Woon Chai met superstar Lin Dan, considered as one of the most decorated shuttlers of all time, in the first round of the China Masters.
During the heydays of the country’s combat sports scene, Brunei male karateka Tong Kit Siong led the breakthrough of the sport after winning a historic bronze medal in the Asian Games in Busan, South Korea in 2002.
His success in the under-75kg men’s kumite was made more memorable after sharing the same podium with international athletes who have proven resume, headlined by Iranian competitor Jasem Vishkaei, who won a world championship four years later.
Another athlete who encountered world-class opposition with international pedigree is national cueist Ahmad Taufiq bin Murni, who has participated in multiple countries and played against some of the world’s leading players including former world number one Ralf Souquet.
A 9-3 victory against the former world champion in the 2011 Beijing Open will be fondly remembered as one of Taufiq’s main highlights in an eventful career.
The national cueist has represented the Sultanate in some of the world’s biggest tournaments including the World 9-Ball Championships in Doha, Qatar in 2011.
His competitive journey in the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games also brought him a rare opportunity of meeting then world ranked number four Li Hewen in the quarterfinals.
Similarly, Brunei’s pencak silat competitor Anisah Najihah binti Abdullah was accompanied by elite athletes during the 2019 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games following the participation of Indonesia’s world champion and gold medal favourite Puspa Arumsari.
Meanwhile, the national netball team constantly meets Singapore and Malaysia, the two teams widely considered as the best in the continental scene owed to their dominance in the Asian Netball Championships and in the SEA Games.
The list would not be complete without mentioning lawn bowls athlete Amaliah Matali who claimed a silver medal in the coveted World Singles Champion of Champions while her compatriot Abdul Rahman clinched bronze in the men’s singles event.
National lawn bowls athletes have enjoyed successes in the international scene, including silver in the men’s pairs’ event of the Asian Lawn Bowls Championships, women’s team in the Asia Pacific Bowls Championships and bronze in the mixed pairs event of the Asia Pacific Indoor Championships.
The country has also bagged a collection of medals in sepak takraw in the Asian Beach Games, bronze in the King’s Cup World Sepak Takraw Championship and the SEA Games.
Their finest hour came in the Asian Beach Games in Phuket, Thailand when a team comprising Ismail Ang, Hafizuddin Jamaluddin, Nur Alimin Sunggoh, Mohd Shukri Jaineh and Jamaluddin bin Haji Marzi claimed gold in the men’s trio event.
In hockey, the national team competed in the International Hockey Federation (FIH) World League Round 1 in April 2016 in Singapore.
Dubbed as the Stingers, the team was able to get international matches under their belt against higher ranked nations such as Hong Kong, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Uzbekistan.