Women encouraged to follow passion in sports

Fadhil Yunus

Her Royal Highness Princess ‘Azemah Ni’matul Bolkiah encouraged women and young girls who are interested in embarking on a career in sports to follow their passion and work hard as well as instilling a never-say-die attitude.

The double Southeast Asian (SEA) Games bronze medallist participated as one of the panellists during the ‘ASEAN We Score: Break Records, Make History!’ hybrid talk show held virtually yesterday as the female sports ambassador for Brunei Darussalam.

Her Royal Highness said, “I think what is also important is to have a good support system around you. It will not always be going to be an easy road.

“You need a good team of people around you. It is about getting back up and how you are going to react to that bump on the road that ultimately determines your future. Be persistent and it is the courage to continue that counts.”

Her Royal Highness also emphasised the significant role of high-profile athletes on calling attentions to appropriate social behaviour during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Her Royal Highness Princess ‘Azemah Ni’matul Bolkiah during the virtual talk show

“I think the sports industry has definitely learnt a lot from the pandemic. It has been a challenging time but I think a lot of sports industries are constantly improving in terms of safety and organisation.

“One major thing that came out during the pandemic is the power of the sports industry as a forefront and how it has shown that it can become a platform for change.

“For example, high profile athletes and big teams have reached out worldwide to promote key messages and helped influence behaviour.”

Asked on Her Royal Highness’ inspiration to pursue a career in sport, she said, “I have always been passionate about sports and I watched my father play polo from a very young age.”

She added, “I have always looked up to him. Polo was always around me when I was growing up so taking it up was inevitable.

“My parents played a significant role in my journey as they were always very supportive and encouraging and I think that is important.

“They were always open to whatever I was passionate about as long as I work for it and did it with conviction by asserting myself which has such a powerful impact to my mindset. That ultimately gave me the confidence to pursue a career in sports.”

During a question and answer session, Her Royal Highness described her passion for polo and how it could not be replaced with other sports.

She said, “The feel of adrenaline and challenging nature of polo makes it so incredibly addictive.

“I’m constantly learning and growing in every game so I don’t think I’ll change it. Not only do I play polo because the enjoyment that it brings, but I think I can quite literally become a better person because of it.”

Her Royal Highness admitted that playing polo has taught her to be a better teammate, accept wins and losses gracefully, and having grit and perseverance.

The talk show engaged Olympians, Paralympians and sports professionals to discuss about women’s achievements and leadership in male-dominated fields.

The sport ambassadors from all 10 ASEAN member states also include Cambodia’s World Vovinam Championship gold medallist Sokha Pov; Indonesia’s Best Female Para-Badminton Athlete of the Badminton World Federation (BWF) 2018-2019 and Tokyo 2020 Paralympic gold medallist Leani Ratri Oktila; Lao PDR’s Olympic Swimming Team Head Coach Soulamphone Kerdla; Malaysia’s SEA Games 2015 Gymnastics gold medallist Farah Ann Abdul Hadi, Myanmar’s Taekwondo Referee of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games Soe Soe Myar, Philippines’ first-ever Olympic gold medallist Hidilyn Diaz; Singapore’s number one junior world foil fencer Amitha Berthier; Vietnam’s consecutive Taekwondo gold medallist Tuyet Van Chau and Thailand’s Olympic taekwondo gold medallist Panipak Wongpattanakit.

The campaign is part of the ASEAN-Japan Actions on Sports Project funded by the Japan-ASEAN Integration Fund (JAIF).

Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Haji Aminuddin Ihsan bin Pehin Orang Kaya Saiful Mulok Dato Seri Paduka Haji Abidin also attended the hybrid talk show.

The minister also presented Certificates of Recognition from ASEAN Secretariat to two Brunei athletes who competed in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.