Sunday, July 22, 2012

From Puncak Jalil, Sharpshooter Nur Suryani to London 2012 Olympics (VIDEO)

LET’S salute our sharpshooter Nur Suryani Mohamed Taibi.

She is already an instant hit with the foreign media, even from Europe and the United States – like CNN, BBC, The Times and The New York Times.

And imagine the London Olympics has yet to even start with Nur Suryani only scheduled to leave for the city yesterday (Sunday).

The reason for the massive attention is because this special athlete would not have to win a medal in London to break a record or two.

Not only is the 29-year-old being the first woman to represent Malaysia in shooting at the Olympics, she is also eight months pregnant,  which the furthest along for any mom-to-be competing in the elite sporting event.

Already a record here, which the Games' great names like Michael Phelps, Jesse Owens or Nadia Comaneci can't match!

Can't really remember anyone who is eight-month pregnant participating in this global elite event.

Do you?

Nur Suryani's presence in London will surely attract more attention.

She is set to be the most sought after Malaysian athlete in the history of the Olympics, which is another record.

The not-so-good factor is that this is a kind of 'distraction' in her preparation for the 10-meter air-rifle event.

But Nur Suryani can't do much as her story is so extraordinary or unique so much so journalists will keep on 'stalking' her. Knowing her, she does not want to let down people if she can.

Shooting needs full concentration in training sessions and competitions. There is a lot of tension and pressure.

This was what the highly- talented and soft-spoken Nur Suryani said in her first interview with this writer at the Manila Sea Games in 2005.

Agreed. This is one sport where you must not think of something else once you are at the venue, just like archery.

Then Nur Suryani is also pregnant, not three or four but eight months, and obviously need extra rest compared to the other athletes.

By deciding to compete, Nur Suryani is taking that risk as anything can happen to a woman who is pregnant at that stage. But, to be fair, only she can decide to go or not if the doctors have given the green light.

She has been working hard to fulfill this Olympics dream by qualifying for the London Games after finishing second in the World Cup championship in Sydney last year.

Thus it is understandable as to why she decided to compete despite her condition.

The good and encouraging news is that husband Mazhasli Mhotar (pic, left) will be accompanying to London. This will surely help her mentally.

“For me, nothing is impossible,” she said.

“It’s one of the challenges. If I abandoned it, maybe who knows? Another four years to wait, maybe I don’t have the opportunity.”

It's unclear how many pregnant women have actually competed at the Games because the International Olympic Committee do not keep track.

At least three other pregnant women were known to have competed, but those were all during the Winter Olympics, according to The Times.

In 2010, Canada’s curling champ Kristie Moore competed in Vancouver about five-and-half   months into her pregnancy. And the 30-year-old won a silver medal

Outside the Games, it is not unheard of for women who are pregnant to keep competing as long as their bodies are trained for such high levels of exercise.

Amber Miller made headlines last year when the 27-year-old completed the Chicago Marathon - and then a few hours later gave birth to a healthy baby girl.

Amazingly, she was 38-weeks-and-five-days pregnant, just shy of the 40-week mark considered full-term, according to reports.

In Nur Suryani’s case, she is concerned about giving birth right as she tries to do her best in London in the 10-meter air rifle event.

The worries a first-time Olympian can have on the day of competition are innumerable.

Is her head in the game? Will that old injury flare back up? Can she perform to the best of her ability in front of all those spectators watching from around the world?

The baby's kick actually has the potential to interfere with the precision air rifling requires, but Nur Suryani has not encountered many issues during practice, and believes pregnancy has actually helped her stability.

With her scores continuously increasing all the way up to 396 out of 400 possible points at 10-meter air rifle events in recent months, she got the potential to shoot her best, all with a baby on board.

Her special plan in London for the event scheduled for this Saturday?

Pacify the baby inside her.

“I will talk to her, say, ‘Mom is going to shoot just for a while. Can you just be calm?’” said Nur Suryani.

For the record, she almost did not get the chance to go to the Games.

Malaysian sports officials were naturally worried about her ability to compete so far along in her pregnancy.

“When I found out that I was pregnant before competing in the Asian meet, I thought that that was the end of my Olympics dream, as I will have to turn my attention to the baby,” she said.

“But when I eventually qualified for the 10-meter air-rifle event on merit, it made me rethink that perhaps I am supposed to go all the way despite my pregnancy.”

Ranked 47th in the world, Nur Suryani even improved her shooting as she continued to train. Her doctor also gave her the go-ahead to travel.

So now, the first-time Olympian is looking forward to going to London, she said, with her husband by her side and their child inside of her.

She already knows what she will say to her daughter when she is older.

“You are very lucky. You’re not born yet and you already went to the Olympics.”

Wonder, what's the baby's name going to be? Perhaps… something to do with Olympics and London?

Anyway, some short background on this mom-to-be.

The down-to-earth and always jovial Nur Suryani first took up shooting at the age of 15 while studying in a school in Ipoh, which she described as 'naughty'.

She is the first daughter of a former army personnel and it is not surprising to see her naturally adept at handling rifles.

She started with karate but switched to shooting after being persuaded by her father.

"My father was my first coach and taught me the basics," said Nur Suryani.

"I surely learnt fast... imagine training under your own father, an army personnel at that!'

Her talent was spotted by shooting officials and like they say the rest is history.

Good luck and take care Nur Suryani from Malaysian Digest in your exploits in London.

You have done the country proud.

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