Malaysian sensation eyes King James' SEA Games mark
Thrower eclipses Wong's Asean record, now wants biennial Games record as well
He has already broken the Asean record previously held by Singapore's retired discus thrower James Wong.
Now, Malaysian sensation Irfan Shamsuddin is gunning for the Singaporean's South-east Asia (SEA) Games mark, too.
Judging by how he has been faring in recent weeks, the 21-year-old looks set to deliver on his promise at the biennial Games in Kuala Lumpur in August.
Irfan grabbed the headlines across the Causeway two weeks ago by breaking his own national record three times in three consecutive meets in Europe, where he has been training for about a month.
He smashed his year-old mark of 59.29m with a 61.10m throw in Halle, Germany, on May 21, before hurling the discus 61.56m in Turnov, the Czech Republic, two days later.
Then, on May 25, he bettered that mark again with a 62.55m effort in Linz, Austria.
Irfan's throw in Halle erased Wong's 18-year-old Asean record of 59.87m, which the 48-year-old Singaporean recorded in Weisbaden, Germany, in May 1999.
With the Games on home soil just two months' away, Irfan has Wong's SEA Games record of 59.50m - set at the 1999 Brunei SEA Games - in his sights.
"To me, the Asean record is more important than the SEA Games record," Irfan told The New Paper over the phone last week.
“After I failed to break his record in 2015, I felt he was too cocky. I mean, he is a legend. Why does he have to say these things? Anyway, it is something that pushes me. I love to prove people wrong.”Irfan shamsuddin on singapore’s retired discus thrower James wong
"But, if nothing goes wrong, God willing, I'll throw 60-plus (metres) at the SEA Games."
Irfan also said he was out to make Wong eat his words, after a tiff between the pair on social media two years ago.
He vowed to break Wong's record at the 2015 SEA Games in Singapore, two years after winning the event at the 2013 edition in Myanmar, but Irfan fell short.
While he comfortably delivered the gold medal in Singapore, Irfan could manage only a 56.62m throw. He then pointed to a groin injury as the reason for failing to smash the mark.
Wong took to social media, saying his record was safe for at least another two years, to which Irfan promised he would erase the mark this year.
But Wong rebutted by reminding the youngster that was what he promised two years earlier and added: "Don't make me wait until I'm 60 before I see my record broken."
Recalling the exchange, Irfan said: "After I failed to break his record in 2015, I felt he was too cocky.
"I mean, he is a legend. Why does he have to say these things?
"Anyway, it is something that pushes me. I love to prove people wrong."
Wong's discus mark is the only current SEA Games athletics record held by a Singaporean man.
When told of Irfan's declaration, Wong played it cool.
"Records are meant to be broken," he said.
"At the end of the day, it is not about me, but about an athlete's own personal achievement.
"After all, I also broke somebody's record once upon a time."
Irfan's personal best of 62.55m is just three centimetres off the silver-medal winning distance at the 2014 Asian Games.
It is also currently the second-best throw by an Asian this year, behind Iran's Ehsan Haddadi, who won a silver medal at the 2012 London Olympics.
Irfan, who is 1.88m tall and weighs 110kg, is targeting glory at continental or Olympic level eventually.
"I am looking forward to achieving something different," he said.
"I have big dreams, I don't want to just be a 'jaguh kampung' (Malay for village champion).
"The upcoming SEA Games is a priority because it is in KL, but, at the same time, I want to show I can achieve something at the Asian and world level.
"All I have to do is believe."