KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 15 ― Whenever Malaysians make noteworthy achievements and contributions in their careers, fields of study or sports, we are proud to shout it from the rooftops.
As Malaysia Day falls tomorrow, Malay Mail features some of the many Sabahans and Sarawakians who excel in their craft.
Sarawak is known for its wildlife diversity and natural wonders as well as the many tribes that live there. In addition, it is home to many popular athletes, in particular in aquatics.
Diver Pandelela Rinong is one of Malaysia’s most popular athletes in recent years. The 25-year-old was born in Bau and is of Bidayuh ethnicity. She made her Olympics debut in 2008 in the 10-metre platform event when she was 15.
She has a silver medal from the 2016 Olympics and picked up a bronze at the 2012 Olympics, in addition to four Fina Diving World Championships’ bronze medals and four from the 2010 and 2014 Commonwealth Games.
Another notable diver is Kuching native Bryan Nickson Lomas. He was the youngest Malaysian to qualify for the 2004 Olympics and second youngest Olympic athlete in that edition. He was also Malaysia’s first world junior diving champion, winning the 3m springboard event in 2004. Lomas retired from diving in 2013.
Fellow Kuching native Daniel Bego was a butterfly and freestyle swimmer who has won 15 SEA Games medals and was the first Malaysian swimmer to compete in three events at a single Olympic Games. Bego, in the 2008 Olympics, qualified for the 200m freestyle, 200m and 10mm butterfly heats.
On the field, Watson Nyambek has made Malaysia proud many times as a 100m sprinter. The Miri native had the nickname the Flying Dayak as he held the 100m national record of 10.30 seconds for 18 years before it was broken in 2016.
Squash player Mohd Azlan Iskandar, also from Kuching, was at one time ranked 10th in the world. Now, he is busy with the Azlan Iskandar Squash Academy, where he runs coaching programmes, classes and bootcamps.
Natasha Seatter, born in Miri to Malaysian and Scottish parents, is a racing driver who first entered a karting competition when she was 11 years old.
She defeated her male counterparts in the Petronas Formula Xperience races four times in a row, thus getting a spot in the Petronas Mofaz Racing Team where she competed as the first and only woman racer.
She was dubbed Rookie of the Year in 2009 and went on to bag the best performing driver award at the GT Asia Series in 2014.
Sarawak has produced many entertainment stars too. Currently the most popular is Iban-British TV host-turned-actor Henry Golding, thanks to his lead role in Hollywood blockbuster Crazy Rich Asians, whose box-office collection has made it the biggest romantic comedy since Walt Disney’s The Proposal in 2009.
There are also noteworthy singers such as Dayang Nurfaizah, Camelia, Zee Avi and Nicholas Teo. Dayang started her singing career in the 1990s and has remained in the popular category ever since. Her powerful vocals have won her several Anugerah Industri Muzik and scores of fans in the region.
Her peer and fellow Kuchingite Camelia still has her fans despite having retired from the entertainment scene some years back.
She is adored for her pop hits and great sense of style.
Born in Miri, indie singer and songwriter Zee Avi is earning her stripes in the United States where she is currently based. She attracted fans and record deals after posting her songs on YouTube. She now has three albums to her name.
Born in Kuching, Teo started his career as a singer and actor in 2004. His ballads are popular, especially in Taiwan where he is now based. He has a number of albums, TV series and movies under his belt.
Sarawak also has its fair share of beauty queens. Among them are 19-year-old Larissa Ping, who was crowned Miss World Malaysia 2018 just last weekend and Kuching-born Dewi Liana Seriestha, who was Miss World Malaysia 2014 and bagged the Miss World Talent title at the international competition.
Seeing there are many indigenous tribes in East Malaysia, there are also many unique musical instruments. One of them is the sape.
Sape player who is of Kenyah Nyorek ethinicity Mathew Ngau Jau is recognised as an authority of the instrument. He is known as the “the Keeper of the Kenyah Ngorek Songs” and Malaysia’s Living National Heritage.
Iban-Melanau Golda Mowe puts her heritage and cultural stories in the forefront in two books — Iban Dream and Iban Journey. The former is an epic tale based on beliefs, taboos and terminology of the Iban people while Iban Journey is its sequel.
Sabah sits on the northern part of Borneo and is home to Mount Kinabalu — Malaysia’s highest peak. The state boasts myriads of cultures, natural resources as well as art and craft.
Notable artist Red Hong Yi is a Kota Kinabalu native who has won many international awards and commissions. This year, Sotheby Institute named her as one of the “11 Art World Entrepreneurs You Should Know”.
Her works have been featured in Wall Street Journal, Time, The New York Times, and more. She has also been commissioned by Facebook, Google and Gucci.
Sandakan-born Patricia Yapp Syau Yin is Asia’s first female MiG-29 fighter pilot. When she is not training Royal Malaysian Air Force pilots, she is busy clocking in hours for those heart-pumping aerial acrobat moves.
Believed to be Sabah’s first Olympians, Tambunan native Gabuh Piging and teammate Sium Diau represented the North Borneo Crown at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne in the triple jump event.
When Malaysia was formed in 1963, Gabuh’s triple jump of 15.38m at the Police Championship in Jesselton (now Kota Kinabalu) in June 1959 was recognised as the national record. He competed well into his 40s but died on Aug 31, 2010.
Kota Kinabalu native and star karateka Ricky Leong Tze Wai won two consecutive individual kata titles at the Asian Championships in 2011 and 2012, and the men’s individual kata (non-sparring) in the Karate World Premier League in Sao Paulo in 2015. For his efforts, he was named Sabah’s Sportsman of the Year 2015/2016. But he has since become a coach.
National archer Fatin Nurfatehah’s efforts in the sport paid off when she won the compound event at the 2015 World Cup. Named Sportswoman of the Year 2015/2016, she continued to score big when she took home two gold and one bronze medals at the 2017 Kuala Lumpur SEA Games.
Swimmers Elvin Chia and Alex Lim Keng Liat made us proud over the years. Chia, born in Sandakan, is the Malaysian Olympian of the Year in 1999 and competed in the 1996 and 2000 Olympics.
Lim, also from Sandakan, is the only Malaysian swimmer to date who has clinched a swimming medal in the Commonwealth Games — silver in 50m backstroke and bronze for 100m backstroke.
He also qualified for the semi-finals at the 2004 Olympics. In 2009, he was inducted into the Olympic Council of Malaysia Hall of Fame.
There is also no shortage of entertainment talents from Sabah. One of them is Daphne Iking. Born in Keningau, the TV host, actress and writer has been in the spotlight since 2003, picking up awards for her talents along the way. She also holds a Masters in Communication from Universiti Sains Malaysia.
Another award-winning Sabahan is Pete Teo. He is a Tawau native and has a career as a singer-songwriter, film composer and filmmaker. Most recently, he appeared alongside Scarlett Johannson in Hollywood film Ghost in the Shell in 2017. He is also known for his social commentaries.
Gary Chaw is a Mandopop superstar, enjoying success in Taiwan, China, Hong Kong and Singapore, with his songwriting skills, stage presence and rich vocals. Although currently based in Taiwan, he was born in Kota Belud.
He is a teacher at Keningau Vocational College and has won many international awards over the past few years. This year, Mohd Sirhajwan Idek of Kota Belud won the Community Award for Citizenship at the Fifth Annual Global Educational Supplies and Solutions in Dubai.
He also won in 2017 the International Innovation and Entrepreneurship Excellence in Teaching Award in Paris and was a finalist for the Outstanding Contribution in Education Award.
The prolific educator took home the Teacher Icon Award at national, state and district levels, Sabah’s Youth Icon Award and the Macmillan Education Scholarship.
We cannot be more proud of these Malaysians and no doubt, there are more to come.
Happy Malaysia Day everyone!