See the substance, not form

See the substance, not form
Malaysian athlete Farah Ann Hadi
PHOTO: Singsoc

I left the sports desk some eight years ago.

So, the just completed SEA Games brought back memories.

Of some great athletes. And good-looking ones.

There was Farah Hani Imran.

She's now 38, and she's Doctor Farah Hani Imran.

She is head of plastic and reconstructive surgery at the National University of Malaysia.

She lectures there and is a very busy person.

She's still as pretty as she was. But she's far more than just a pretty face. This lady wears all sorts of hats.

She spent 10 years in Dublin, worked in hospitals in New York, Paris and San Diego.

According to reports, she was once offered a salary of 200,000 ringgit (S$71,410) to be a locum for just six weeks in Dublin.

She could have made big money abroad. But she chose to come back to the country where her beginnings were.

Hers is a family which emphasises spirituality, academia and sports, she once said. Truly, a well-balanced approach.

Dr Farah Hani was a member of the International Advisory Panel of the Non-Aligned Movement Institute of Empowerment for Women (NIEW) and she is a Women's Aid Organisation (WAO) volunteer.

In college, she was known as the dancing queen. She used to teach dancing at the Thunder Dance Academy in Dublin, Ireland as a volunteer.

She also designs clothes in classical European style and Malay traditional styles. She's absolutely multi-talented and brilliant.

In case the name doesn't ring a bell, she was once the darling of Malaysian sports.

She was a champion in a discipline that combined gymnastics and dancing - rhythmic gymnastics.

In 1991, she won the SEA Games only gold on offer - in the team event.

In 1993, she won gold in the individual all-around final and silver in the team event.

She was also the first Malaysian to compete at the World Championships - in Alicante, Spain in 1993.

Before her, there was the pioneer, Faiznur Miskin.

This sweet girl swept all five gold medals at stake in rhythmic gymnastics at the 1989 Games.

And boy, has she got a head on her shoulders. Even as a teenager, she was already studying at the North View Heights School in Toronto, Canada.

She was a solo dancer in a theatre production of Fame in that city. Barely 17, she represented her school at a career expo; she was recognised as an exceptional scholar and leader in elite sports in the school.

She averaged 95 in her test scores and earned a place in Harvard University to do a Masters Degree in financial business.

And Heidi - a nickname she has always carried - is now senior vice-president of GIC Special Investments Pte Ltd, New York.

GIC touts itself as one of the largest investment management organisations in the world, investing well over $100 billion in multiple asset classes in more than 40 countries.

She says she retired from gymnastics because a sound education is always better than a career in sports which may be shortlived.

"I hope I am not known as a successful gymnast but in other things as well." Talk about a beauty with brains.

There were others like these two. People like Farah Zellinna Kemal and Durratun Nasihin.

Oh, in case you are wondering why I am singing the praises of these ladies, it's because they all wore leotards when they were in sports. And look at them now.

It's about time some grown-ups actually grow up and see young athletes for what they really are - young people with potential to go far.

And they are young, some in their teens and or barely out of their teens.

So, adults who watch them should not be having bad thoughts.

These are children showing their sporting abilities in the arena.

How they dress and conduct themselves outside of the arena is another thing.

And now we have Farah Ann Hadi.

She came in for some flak at the recent SEA Games, the first time this sort of thing has happened. Maybe it's because of the power of the Internet.

It wasn't so in the days of the printed word.

Farah Ann scored many distinctions at her secondary level public examinations.

She is now pursuing a degree in Bachelor of Arts (Global) and majoring in international studies at Monash University.

Her sister Katrina Ann is also a top scorer.

The synchronised swimmer was a five gold medallist at the 2011 SEA Games in Indonesia and won a gold and a silver in Singapore.

Both these girls are well-balanced people. They have strength, skills and brains, great agility and a wonderful sense of humour.

They can soar. Let's not clip their wings by letting our eyes wonder and dirty thoughts creep in.

I am sure that in a decade or so, these two will be very successful adults in whatever field they choose to be in.

That's what we should be looking forward to. Looking at their abilities and potential - not their body parts.

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