Sheik targets two golds in June
The last time the South-east Asia (SEA) Games were held here in 1993, pencak silat contributed two golds, five silvers and three bronze medals to Singapore's overall medal haul.
While he is unsure if the sport will bring home 10 medals again when the 2015 SEA Games roll into town in June, Singapore Silat Federation (Persisi) chief Sheik Alau'ddin is targeting a local presence in four finals.
"It's hard to say how many we can win," he told The New Paper, on the sidelines of a national team training session at Persisi's headquarters in Bedok earlier in the week.
"The silat competition in 1993 saw a full complement of 24 categories. This time round, there are only 14.
"Of course, nothing is impossible. I'm looking at two golds - Alfian (Juma'en) and Shakir (Juanda) - and two others in the finals.
"That would be a good achievement."
Ngee Ann Polytechnic student Alfian, 18, is the reigning SEA Games champion in the Class F (70kg-75kg) category, after he beat then-world champion Pham Van Ty in the final.
Shakir (above, left), meanwhile, won the world title in the Class H (80-85kg) title at the 2012 World Championships.
Sheik, 47, was one of Singapore's two gold-medal winners 22 years ago, the other being Hidayat Hosni.
He stressed his athletes needed to positively channel the pressure of performing in front of a home crowd.
He recounted his own experience of having his wife - then five months' pregnant with the couple's first child - unexpectedly turn up during his final at the Yio Chu Kang Sports Hall against Indonesia's Iwayan Wirawan.
"Our guys should tell themselves this is a chance to show their countrymen that they are the real deal," said Sheik.
"Some people may still have doubts over your achievements, because all they see are newspaper articles or short clips on the internet. But this time, they can see for themselves.
"So our guys must use this, plus the fact their families and friends will be watching on and supporting them, as a motivation."
FARHAN WON'T COMPETE
Sheik is resigned to the fact his third son Sheik Farhan will not compete at the Games.
The 17-year-old shot to prominence last month after winning the Class J (90kg to 95kg) title at the Pencak Silat World Championship in Phuket.
But there will be no Class J category at the SEA Games and Farhan's name was not among the more than 900 nominations on the initial list of athletes released by the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) on Jan 26.
Sheik had hoped that writing in to higher authorities could result in a last-minute inclusion of the weight class.
But he said: "He's out already. I wrote a letter to (SNOC president and Manpower Minister) Tan Chuan-Jin and got the reply already. There's no way. I'm planning on making him (Farhan) one of our assistant coaches for the Games so, hopefully, he will still feel part of the team.
"Hopefully, that'll be approved."