Youngest and oldest, Haziq and Tan have same philosophy
Separated by 44 years, Tan and Haziq share the same attitude
His eyes darted from the big screen to his feet, then up to the screen again, and for a moment, Haziq Ibrahim looked nervous.
He then scanned the stands, and finding familiar faces, he flashed the cheekiest of grins.
Haziq seemed out of place at the starting block the men's 400m (T20) heats at the Asean Para Games.
The Singaporean was shorter, smaller and skinnier than his rivals, as a 14-year-old would be.
For the first 100m it looked like the Grace Orchard School student was closing the gap, but he faded and finished last in the six-man field at the National Stadium.
Nine years separated the heat winner, Indonesia's Endi Nurdine Tine, and Haziq, but the youngster brought a smile to the face of Dr William Tan watching from the stands.
"Sometimes your spirits can be dampened, but from the way Haziq drove off the blocks, you can see his passion, and how he kept at it right through to the end," said Tan, of the contingent's youngest athlete.
"I think that's very good for the future of the sport. This is how I want to invest my time, in building up young athletes like him."
Tan is a Paralympian from the last century. He is 58, but still took to the track yesterday in the men's 100m (T53).
He finished seventh out of eight competitors in the wheelchair race - Tan clocked 19.28sec in the race won by Thailand's Paeyo Pongsakorn in 15.58 - on a day when no Singapore athlete finished on the podium again.
But, after coming out on top in a six-year battle with stage-four leukaemia, it was no skin off Tan's back.
"I know that youth is a vital part of the event - I'm 40 years older than some of my opponents. Odds are against me, but I believe in giving my best whatever the odds," he said after his race, still smiling.
"Age is no excuse, but it's not all about winning...sometimes it's just about defying the odds."
Haziq wore the same attitude.
His coach, former Singapore sprint star Muhamad Hosni, told The New Paper that his protege has in fact been training for the 100m and 200m, but with neither race available for his class, the last three months were spent tweaking his programme for the 400m, instead.
"I didn't care about (my opponents who are clearly bigger than me), I just wanted to focus and finish the race... I'm proud of myself... at least I started and ended the race," said Haziq, who finished in 59.94sec, some eight seconds behind heat winner, Indonesia's Endi (51.65).
"And yes, I want more (of this)," he added, after his debut experience.
Hosni expects more of Haziq.
"That was a very brave performance, he's just 14, and has only been with us for a year.
"I told him to run, get experience and finish the race. I think it has been an eye-opener for him."
Tan, meanwhile, has two more races to go, and while he does not expect to trump Father Time, he is determined to give his all every time he races.
"There's a large number of young athletes making their debut here and, for a veteran like me, that's really heartwarming.
"I hope more will follow Haziq's example and start to see sports as a part of life, because taking part in sports has transformed my life," said Tan.
"I want to transition and mentor these youngsters, but before that I want to enjoy being out there.
"I may have finished seventh, but I gave my best and it was great - I still had those butterflies in my stomach."
It's about the Big 3
Day two of athletics at the 8th Asean Para Games emphasised what the first day of competition hinted at - that track and field is a three-way contest between Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.
Seventy-six of the 112 medals that have been given out so far have been won by athletes from the three countries, with Malaysia the biggest winners on the day.
The Malaysian anthem was played seven times at the National Stadium yesterday, while the Indonesians claimed six gold medals and the Thais five.
The Singapore contingent have yet to win a medal after two days of competition.