KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 19 — Diving’s rising star Nur Dhabitah Sabri was the missing piece of the puzzle after all when the petite lass rose above the stadium’s tarmac in spectacular fashion to light the cauldron that served as the highlight of the SEA Games (KL2017) opening ceremony tonight.
As the nation waited with bated breath on who was going to be the ‘chosen one’, the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games bronze medallist made her way to the majestic golden cauldron and lit up a ring of small flames on the lip of the cauldron.
Dubbed as the first woman to light up the cauldron in the history of six SEA Games hosted by Malaysia since 1965, the 18-year old diver was chosen as a symbol to reflect the future of Malaysian sports.
Nur Dhabitah, who hails from Kuala Lumpur won the bronze medal in the 10m platform synchronised swimming in Glasgow as well as two gold medals in the 2013 Myanmar SEA Games and 2015 Singapore SEA Games, respectively.
The cauldron looked enormous next to the 5 foot Nur Dhabitah but about 84,000 spectators at the stadium went wild as she lighted up the cauldron to the applause of those present at the stadium as well as the millions watching the opening ceremony that was telecast live by several television stations.
The spirit of unity was embedded in the cauldron design, which was inspired by the traditional Malaysian oil lamp torches used to welcome guests during festivals.
It had five spokes inscribed with the Rukun Negara and the gold served to honour Malaysia’s monarch, as well as a nod to the highest award at the biennial games.
The weave motif on the cauldron signified the strength in unity and was symbolic of all the athletes and officials rising together as one. It was also an acknowledgment to the heritage of traditional craft Malaysians share with its neighbours.
Earlier, nostalgia filled the air in the stadium when eighteen, including Nur Dhabitah, sporting icons representing past, present and future champions proudly relayed the torch for KL2017.
The long-standing tradition commenced when a group headed by 1998 Commonwealth games double gold medallist for tenpin bowling Kenny Ang appeared at the bridge in the stadium, accompanied by Malaysia’s first champion in the Professional Women’s Bowling Association (PWBA) Tour, Siti Safiyah Amirah Abdul Rahman and SEA Games triple gold medallist Muhammad Rafiq Ismail.
The historic moment continued when Bangkok Asian Games gold medallist for cycling Datuk Ng Joo Ngan grasped the torch from Kenny Ang before he was accompanied by SEA Games triple gold medallist Fatehah Mustapha and World Cup bronze medalist Muhammad Shah Firdaus Sahrom.
Four times SEA Games gold medallist in hockey Datuk Mirnawan Nawawi who was flanked by 2010 Asian Games silver medallist Faizal Saari and Asia’s Most Promising Player 2016 Hanis Nadiah Onn when he received the torch.
The torch relay continued with eight-time SEA Games gold medallist in long jump and triple jump Mohd Zaki Sadri taking over together with national 100m and 200m sprint record holder Khairul Hafiz Jantan and World Junior Championship triple jumper Kirthana Ramasamy.
Zaki Sadri then passed the torch to 1992 Olympics bronze medallist in badminton men’s doubles Datuk Razif Sidek who was together with 2016 Rio Olympics badminton mixed doubles silver medallist Chan Peng Soon and 2015 World Junior Champion Goh Jin Wei.
The torch went into the hands of five-time SEA Games gold medallist Bryan Nickson Lomas and reigning diving champion Pandelela Rinong, who won a silver medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics and is a six-time SEA Games gold medallist before Nur Dhabitah.
The torch made its way to Malaysia after travelling in the Rising Together Baton Run across countries participating in the 29th edition of the SEA Games.
The whole nation was also exultant when 320 Jalur Gemilang, representing the country’s population of 32 million, lead the procession, followed by flags of 11 participating countries namely Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Timor Leste, Vietnam and Malaysia, along with the SEA Games Federation as well as the Games flags.
The Malaysian contingent paraded last as host of the KL2017 with three world champions as flag-bearers namely world keirin champion ‘The Pocket Rocket Man’ Azizulhasni Awang, diving queen Cheong Jun Hoong who recently was crowned world champion at the FINA World Diving Championships in Budapest and 2016 world silat champion Mohd Al-Jufferi Jamari. — Bernama