The Singapore silat team won eight medals, including a gold, at the recent SEA Games. But the team has not been faring well in the past few editions compared to their glory years in 1999 and 2003.
One by one, their athletes faltered at the semi-final stages of the Games, except for Muhammad Nur Alfian Juma’en. He defended his gold in the individual Class F finals after beating world champion Tran Dinh Nam from Vietnam, and famously shed tears on the podium, overwhelmed by the moment.
Nur Alfian said: “The thing that was running through my mind was that everything was worth it. Like the sacrifices that I’ve done in terms of diet, school, time with family and the training was very tough. To be able to achieve the win, I can’t describe the emotions.”
The 18-year-old first took up silat when he was five. Initially it was just for fun, but now, he is part of the elite team which has over 22 athletes.
“The main thing is discipline because you have to take care of your diet. And you must also give 100 per cent in training every single time,” Nur Alfian said.
He was one of 13 silat athletes fielded at the recent Games and the team ended with a haul of one gold, one silver and six bronze.
Mr Sheik Alau’ddin, head of the Singapore Silat Federation, said: “I asked them, ‘What is the problem with you guys? Why are you so scared?’ And they said ‘I’m scared of losing. I’m scared because I might fall.’ So, all these things messed up their minds. The main priority now is to have the mental strength, how we need to develop individual athletes.”
The team seems to fare better at other international and regional competitions. Singapore was crowned overall champions in the 5th Southeast Asian Pencak Silat Championships in April, defeating powerhouses like Malaysia and Indonesia along the way. The team received seven gold, two silver and 10 bronze in the competition. And Singapore’s silat exponents won one gold, three silver, and three bronze at the world championships in Phuket earlier in January.
At the SEA Games though, they have only bagged four gold in the past five editions.
Sheik Alau’ddin said the sport’s glory years at the Games were in 1999 and 2003. They had won three gold medals each in those years. But he said the sport is not losing its shine.
“I’m not worried about all that. It’s just the individual athletes, whether they’re hungry enough, whether they want to be on the highest podium,” he said. “You see, like Alfian, he fought in the finals and his toe was split open and there’s blood everywhere. If it’s someone who is not strong enough and they look at the blood, they might not continue.”
This hunger to win will be put to the test when they compete at the International Malaysia Open Silat Championship in September.