Alfian eyes third straight silat gold triumph
Only one Singaporean has won three SEA Games gold medals in pencak silat - the sport's local icon Sheik Alau'ddin.
Alfian Juma'en could join him in the exclusive club today if he can see off the threat of Vietnam's Nguyen Duy Tuyen in the men's tanding (match) Class G (75-80kg) final at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre Hall 2.
Nguyen is the reigning world champion in the weight class, but the 21-year-old Alfian has already defeated the Vietnamese once before at the Asian Pencak Silat Championships in Singapore last year. He did it with a fractured hand, too.
"Even though I'm in the final for a third consecutive Games, it feels the same as it did the first time (in 2013)," said the Singapore Sports School alumnus.
"In the previous two finals, I was also up against world champions from Vietnam.
"This time, I feel the same excitement ahead of the match, and I'm really motivated. Whoever is on his best game will win the gold medal tomorrow."
In 2013, Alfian, then 17, won a surprise gold at the Myanmar SEA Games after defeating Vietnam's Van Ty Pham in the Class F (70 to 75kg) category.
Two years ago, he retained his Class F title on home soil by beating another Vietnamese Tran Dinh Nam, despite suffering a deep cut on his left foot midway through the match.
Singapore could win up to five gold medals today.
Aside from Alfian, reigning world champions Shakir Juanda (Class I, 85-90kg) and newly crowned Sportsboy of the Year Sheik Farhan (Class H, 80-85kg) also made it to the final of their respective weight classes.
Shakir faces Vietnam's Nguyen Van Tri, while Farhan will square off with Malaysian Khairzul Yaacob.
Atiq Syazwani Roslan is the sole Singaporean woman remaining in the tanding category, and will face Vietnam's Pham Thi Tuoi in the Class A (45-50kg) final.
Two artistic gold medals are also up for grabs, with Nurhuzairah Yazid competing in the women's "Tunggal Putri" category, before teaming up with Nur Azlyana Ismail and Nurul Syafiqah Faizul for the "Regu Putri" team category.
Singapore have won just one silver and six bronze medals in Kuala Lumpur so far, but Sheik, who is the chief executive officer of the Singapore Silat Federation, believes the target of five gold medals could be met.
Said the 46-year-old: "I felt two of our other fighters, Ridhwan Selamat (men's Class A) and Nurul Suhaila Saiful (women's Class D) should have won their semi-finals, but the jurors scored it differently.
"I also felt (Sheik) Ferdous clearly beat his opponent in the quarter-final (men's tanding, Class H).
"Having three more fighters in the finals would have given us a bigger chance to meet the five- gold target but, even with who we have now, I think we can still do it."