MALACCA, Nov 26 — One glance at the home of the country’s fastest man and one would not believe his rise to life on the fast lane.
Badrul Hisyam Manap, who broke the 17-year record in the 100m held by Watson Nyambek when he sprinted to gold in 10.29s at the Asean Schools Games (ASG) in Brunei on Monday, started life in the slow-paced village of Kampung Batu Gajah in Merlimau, Malacca, surrounded by long narrow roads and lush coconut trees.
The family led a simple life as the 18-year-old sprinter and sister Nur Atikah, 23, depended on an meagre income of RM450 a month by his mother after his dad Abdul Manap Muhammad Yatim passed away in 2011 due to bleeding in the lungs.
“We were lucky his dad had some savings. Coupled with the monthly assistance we receive from the welfare department (RM250), bringing them up was bearable. But Badrul never let our hardship stop his dreams, running was in his blood from a young age,” said Badrul’s mother Rozinah Baba, who supplements the family income by babysitting.
Before Badrul was chasing and breaking records, he started by sprinting after chickens with his childhood friend Nur Adilah Najihah.
“He was active from a young age and always managed to catch a few chickens when we used to play as kids, but he was kind enough to let them go afterwards!
“He was playful as a kid and still has the goofiness in him, but when it came to running he was all business,” said Nur Adilah who is a state lawn bowler.
“Growing up I knew he was destined for bigger thing(s) because he does not give up easily. If he wants something, he will do his best to achieve it.”
Badrul, who topped his 100m feat at the ASG with the 200m and 4x100m title was first discovered by his primary school coach Nur Aziah Kassim, who noticed him tearing up the tracks at the Batu Gajah Primary School when he was nine.
“Nur Aziah played a huge part in Badrul’s early development. She was the one who ferried him to training and even when he moved to the Seri Kota Sports School for his secondary education, she kept close tabs on his progress,” said Rozinah, who started seeing less of her son as he stayed in the school dormitory.
The turning point in his fledgling career came two years ago when he was offered the chance to join the Tunku Mahkota Ismail Sports School in Bandar Penawar, Johor.
“He was initially reluctant to leave, but chose to go after the encouragement of his current coach Poad Kassim, who gave me his word he will take care and nurture my son. I can’t thank him and Nur Aziah enough for their help,” said Rozinah, who keeps her son’s accolades in a trophy-laden cabinet, which is the only furniture in the living room of the two-bedroom single-storey house.
“We bought this cabinet just for his collection. I hardly get the chance to see him now that he’s in Johor but every time I miss him, I will stare at his trophies,” admitted the 49-year-old Rozinah.
The wait to see her son is coming to an end and the welcome when he returns to Merlimau will be a grand one.
“There will be a welcoming party when he comes back! His name is on everyone’s lips and there has never been such a high profile achievement from anyone in this village.
“The village committee has been asking for the date of his return so this is huge!,” said his aunt Zainab Mat Yatim, who with other relatives, often keep Rozinah occupied at home.
When asked how far Badrul could go after his record-breaking feat, “the sky” was her reply.
“It’s up to him how far he aims to go. I will always hold him in prayers and wish the best for him, and if he can change our family’s fortunes through his talent, I will forever give thanks to God,” she said.
With the world at his lightning quick feet, Badrul looks set to not only change his family’s fortunes but the future of Malaysia’s athletics — which has been in the doldrums for far too long.