300 mourners send off national hurdler

National athlete Muhammad Zaki Sapari.

SINGAPORE - Hundreds of people turned up on Saturday to bid the promising young athlete a final goodbye.

National athlete Muhammad Zaki Sapari, 22, was involved in a collision with a lorry on Valentine's Day. Paramedics later pronounced him dead at the scene.

On Saturday, about 300 mourners turned up to pay their final respects at his family flat at Block 821, Woodlands Street 82. The turnout was a testament to the popularity of the young track star.

The ground-floor flat that Mr Zaki shared with his parents was packed. Many had to wait outside, speaking in hushed tones while dabbing away tears.

His body left the flat at around 4pm and he was buried at Lim Chu Kang Muslim Cemetery 30 minutes later.

The former Republic Polytechnic student first made waves in 2011, when he became Singapore's first South-east Asian (SEA) Games 400m hurdler in 18 years.

In May that year, he won the event at the Malacca Open with the timing of 54.02sec - 0.13 seconds faster than the bronze-medal timing by Thailand's Phatyot Klong-Ngan at the 2009 SEA Games in Laos.

With this achievement, Mr Zaki, who was 1.86m tall, smashed the 25-year-old Singapore junior record for the event.

He also qualified for last year's SEA Games in Myanmar, but had to withdraw at the last minute due to national service commitments.

Singapore Athletic Association (SAA) president Tang Weng Fei told The New Paper on Sunday on Saturday that he had expected Mr Zaki to bring in the medals at the SEA games in Singapore next year.

He said: "I am still in a shock that he is gone. Singapore has lost a good, young son."

Mr Tang added that Mr Zaki was also a dedicated athlete who remained humble despite his successes.

"I often saw him when he trained at Bishan Stadium. He would always stand up and talk to me whenever we met, no matter how tired he was," he said.

Friends whom Mr Zaki used to train with described him as a charismatic young man who had motivated them to do their very best.

Miss Sharin Keong, 22, the winner of The New Paper New Face in 2012, had got to know him through track and field events seven years ago.

They often spent time together with the other athletes before and after their sporting events.

"He was a very nice guy. He was very confident and a good inspiration to many," she said.

"I'm really sad that he is gone."

At the Lim Chu Kang Muslim cemetery on Saturday afternoon, a sombre group watched his immediate family scatter flowers over his grave.

Mr Zaki is survived by his parents and five siblings.

When The New Paper tried to speak to his father, Mr Sapari Mingan, he would only say "he was a good son" before turning away.

The police said investigations into the accident are ongoing.

ashaffiq@sph.com.sg


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