Defending world title is priority for silat star Shakir
Talk about dedication.
Silat star Shakir Juanda is so hungry to retain his title at the upcoming Pencak Silat World Championships that he joined centralised training with the national squad only three days after getting hitched.
From Dec 28, most of the 20-strong squad have spent the entire day at the Singapore Silat Federation's (Persisi) Bedok base, eating, training and sleeping at the facility.
Shakir, who tied the knot with Nur Shafiqah Ghazali on Dec 27, will defend his Class H (80-85kg) title at the World Championships, which will be held from Saturday to Jan 17 in Phuket.
The silat world championships will feature fighters from 57 nations.
The Singapore contingent leave for Phuket today and Shakir knows he will miss his wife.
"Yes, it's a very big sacrifice," he said, yesterday. "After all, I haven't seen my wife for so long as she is based in Australia. I can take it. I coaxed her and told her it'll be only for two weeks, and God willing after that it'll all be fine.
"Thank God so far everything has gone smoothly."
Shakir's wife moved to Sydney with her family when she was 13, and eventually took up citizenship there.
After the world championships, he will have a "second wedding" Down Under.
For the moment, though, Shakir is focused only on winning.
As a Sports Excellence (Spex) Scholar, he trains as a full-time athlete and aided by the funding boost, Persisi have sent him on several training camps and competitions overseas.
He was victorious at the Belgium Open in Antwerp last May, the Thailand Open in Chiangmai a month later, and the 3 Nations Pencak Silat Championship in Leeuwardens, Holland, in October.
He has also been to countries like Uzbekistan, Malaysia and Indonesia to spar against top-calibre opponents.
Shakir says the trips have given him "momentum" and he added: "Mentally, I now see myself as a champion, compared to before the World Championships in 2012.
"Now, during training, even if I feel lazy, I know I can't slack. I have to push myself and walk the walk."
Shakir is not the only Singapore silat exponent looking to make his mark in Phuket.
Teenager Alfian Juma'en, who shot to prominence after bagging an unlikely gold medal at the 2013 South-east Asia (SEA) Games in Myanmar, is also eyeing glory.
Like Shakir, the 18-year-old Ngee Ann Polytechnic student has had to make sacrifices - namely his studies - to go to Phuket.
He has taken a semester off his Diploma in Business Studies, and is looking to defer the second semester, so he can focus on retaining his SEA Games gold when the biennial event rolls into Singapore in June.
"I feel really excited because I know it'll be a lot tougher than the SEA Games," said the Class F (70 to 75kg) fighter.
"Plus, because I won gold, my competitors will now know me and might look out for me.
"The trips overseas have been a big help. It's not always you get to test yourself against bigger, stronger fighters like the Europeans.
"Even when we fight in Indonesia, for example, we fight against their national fighters, those who will compete at the SEA Games.
"I get to sharpen techniques that, a year ago, I didn't even know I could do."
When asked if he felt overburdened with the training and academic exertions, Alfian said: "Okay lah, can cope.
"I just try to make full use of whatever time I have. I know the training and competition schedules, and I try to work with them.
"It helps that my lecturers and classmates have helped me out a lot with make-up lessons.
"Anyway, I'm used to studying and training taking up most of my day, from my time at the Singapore Sports School. The only difference now I'm in poly is that I don't sleep at school."
Persisi chief Sheik Alau'ddin said: "The whole of last year, we've sent Shakir and Alfian on a lot of overseas competitions and training camps, so they are well prepared.
"If we can produce two world champions, it would be a great boost for the sport.
"It will motivate young kids to come through and try make the most of themselves and try to be world champions, too."