(TNP PHOTO: SALWA NADHIRAH)
FROM THE NEW PAPER
BY SAZALI ABDUL AZIZ
They are born almost a decade apart, but national pencak silat exponents Shakir Juanda and Sheik Farhan have a couple of things in common.
Firstly, they are both two-time silat world champions in their respective weight classes.
Another statistic they share which they might not enjoy being repeated so much is that they have never won a SEA Games gold medal.
It is something that rankles and the pair have a chance to win the elusive gold when the silat competition at the SEA Games begins on Aug 24.
Shakir, who turns 29 next month, has a silver and two bronze medals to show for in four SEA Games. He missed the 2015 edition on home soil because of a knee injury.
Before a recent training session at the OCBC Arena, Shakir told The New Paper: “It does (bug me) a bit. People ask me why I have two world titles, but no SEA Games gold medal… I don’t blame them.
“But it’s just about who is in the best state of mind and readiness to perform at that time.
“Also, at every SEA Games, I competed in a different (weight class). For example, I competed at Class C (55kg) in 2007 so I never got any consistency.”
Shakir’s two world title wins, in 2012 and 2016, came in the Class I (90kg) category, where he will also compete in at this SEA Games.
Two years ago, he was entered in the Class H (85kg) category, until his injury paved the way for Farhan to take his place.
The teenager ended up taking bronze competing in a weight class two divisions (or 10kg) lower than his usual Class J.
Farhan’s feats at consecutive World Championships in 2015 and 2016 are even more remarkable considering he is still only 19.
“To be honest, ahead of this SEA Games, I don’t feel any pressure,” said Farhan.
“Two years ago, I wasn’t competing in my weight class, but still managed to get a bronze.
“I seriously don’t think I have a point to prove.”
Farhan’s approach to competition is very much like the mixed martial arts fighters he enjoys watching, such as UFC light heavyweight champion Jon “Bones” Jones.
Asked what his long-term goal in silat is, Farhan coolly said: “My target is just not to lose. When I was at my first World Championships at 17, I didn’t want to go there just to gain experience or just to try and get a bronze.
“No matter what the odds, I will try to win the gold.”
This single-mindedness perhaps comes from being one of silat icon Sheik Alau’ddin’s six children – he is the third-youngest.
Sheik senior is a two-time world champion and four-time SEA Games gold medallist.
Farhan i one of several young national silat exponents who are making waves after coming through the Singapore Sports School system.
The others include two-time SEA Games gold medallist Alfian Juma’en and two-time World Championship bronze medallist Nurul Suhaila.
Shakir, who has been in the national squad for over a decade, believes this group of youngsters can take local silat to the next level.
“At first, I did not really see any difference to them compared to other juniors who previously made the step up to the seniors,” he said.
“But, in the last couple of years, I’ve noticed they have a lot of potential in them. The way they train and fight, I can see a bright future for Singapore silat.
“I’ve also observed our champions are getting younger and younger – only Singapore silat athletes are winning titles (in their early 20s)… And Farhan is the youngest.
“If you look at the Malaysian and Vietnamese fighters, their champions are usually in their mid-20s or older.”
Shakir, Farhan and Suhaila won gold medals at the SEA Pencak Silat Championships in Kuala Lumpur in March.
The competition was considered a dry run for the SEA Games.
The SEA Games 2017 will be held in Kuala Lumpur from Aug 19-30. Pencak Silat will be held from Aug 24-29.