APG 2015: Sprinter Hafiq, 14, is nervous about crowd's cheers
Cheering makes youngster nervous, but he's still eyeing sprint triumph
Shouts and screams of support always boost the spirit of an athlete. Unless you are Muhammad Haziq Ibrahim.
"I get nervous, shy and scared when people clap for me," the 14-year-old (above) told The New Paper recently. "And sometimes I cannot run properly."
The 1.62m-tall athlete will have to overcome his unique problem quickly though, as he is set to represent Singapore in the T20 400m race at the 8th Asean Para Games.
Around 3,000 athletes and officials are coming for the Games from Dec 3 to 9. There will be 15 sports, and track and field will be held at the National Stadium at the Singapore Sports Hub.
Haziq is the youngest athlete in Singapore's 157-strong contingent and he's been receiving advice on how to deal with his nerves.
"My teacher told me that if I'm nervous when I am running I will be slower. It's quite simple, if I think more positively, I will be able to go faster," said the Grace Orchard School student, who will celebrate his 15th birthday on Dec 9, the final day of the Games.
The Jurong West school caters to students between seven and 18 years old who have been diagnosed with Mild Intellectual Disability (MID) and those with Mild Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).
Haziq, the second of 10 siblings, started out playing football, but stopped after he felt that he was subjected to rough tackling by his opponents.
He turned his attention to track, after one of his teachers selected him for the sport.
"I don't know why my teacher selected me," he admitted. "It felt weird to run without a ball at first, but I like it. It makes me happy."
The Bukit Panjang resident travels to locations like Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Bishan Stadium and the Kallang Practice Track three times a week to train under former national sprinter Muhammad Hosni.
In his free time, Haziq often watches YouTube videos of his idol, Jamaican sprinter Yohan Blake, looking to copy his technique.
While Haziq will make his debut at the Games, this will not be his first time in a major meet.
He competed at the Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles earlier this year, and won silver in both the 100m and 200m.
"My family and I were very happy about it (my performance at the World Games), and they told me that I could do better next time," said the shy runner, whose family and schoolmates will be at the National Stadium to cheer him on.
"This time, I want to win gold."
Like it or not, he will have to pull it off in front of what will surely be a loud cheerleading crowd.
- LIM SAY HENG