The odds were stacked against him right from the start - first, a matchup against the defending SEA Games Gold medallist in his semi-final, then, an intimidating final bout against the reigning World Champion. But Silat exponent Muhammad Alfian passed both tests with flying colours.
He showed steely determination and mature poise that belied his tender years to win Gold in the Men's Tanding event at the SEA Games in Myanmar. Just 17 years old, the first-year Ngee Ann Polytechnic student bested Vietnam's Ty Pham Van in a unanimous 5-0 victory on Sunday (15 December) at Nay Pyi Taw's Zayar Thiri Indoor Stadium, showing no fear against the World Champion. Although the first round was a cagey affair, he executed a perfect scissor sweep in the second to bring down his opponent.
With his coaches and teammates on the sidelines cheering themselves hoarse, he played an intelligent defensive game in the final round, slamming the shell-shocked Vietnamese to the ground twice more in an impressive display. Even a brief five-minute blackout immediately before the start of his match failed to shake the remarkable resolve of the young man, who ran to embrace his teammates after his win before collapsing into a sobbing, emotional wreck. "The second round was decisive because I managed to bring him down," said Alfian, who is now the joint-youngest Gold medallist in Silat after emulating the feat of Mohamed Zulfakar Ramli at the 1999 Games.
On what kept him going, he said, "I knew I had to win for my team, my coaches, my family and Singapore." A tearful Sheik Alau'ddin, the contingent's Team Manager and a SEA Games champion, was effusive in his praise of Alfian. He said, "He's the man! I've always said he is the dark horse…. He's still only 17 and can definitely go far. I want him to become World Champion next year." With a coveted Gold finally in the bag, Silat's final medal tally from this SEA Games stands at one Gold and two Bronze.
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