Hazim and Sharifah are silat world junior champions
Hazim and Sharifah crowned world junior silat champs in KL
He is usually reserved and soft spoken.
But throw silat athlete Hazim Yusli into an arena to compete, and the 14-year-old turns into a lionheart.
On Thursday, the Teck Whye Secondary School student was crowned the junior world champion in the Class A (39-43kg) category of the World Junior Pencak Silat Championships in Kuala Lumpur, after soundly beating Vietnam's Lin Duc Hoa 5-0 in the final.
He also beat Malaysian fighter Aizad Akbar by a similar score in the semi-finals.
"I talk quite a lot when I'm with friends but, otherwise, I'm very soft-spoken," Hazim told The New Paper. "In front of people I don't know, I get nervous easily."
In front of a 1,000-strong crowd at the Titiwangsa Stadium, Hazim shrugged off his shyness to see off Aizad and Duc Hoa.
"I had never competed in front of so many people before," admitted Hazim, who is 1.60m tall and weighs 42kg. "The atmosphere was quite intimidating, but I just told myself to keep calm."
Singapore Silat Federation chief executive Sheik Alau'ddin was thrilled with Hazim's performance.
The two-time silat world champion said: "He was excellent. He beat the Malaysian in the semi-finals and the Vietnamese in the final by clear points.
"He's so quiet all the time, and when you look at his skinny body, you might think he's 'lembik' (soft in Malay)... but his technique is good, and his kicks are powerful.
"The fact that he beat the Malaysian soundly in the semi-finals, in front of a home crowd, says everything."
Hazim was one of two Singaporeans to be crowned world junior champions in Kuala Lumpur.
The other was 15-year-old Sharifah Shazza Shamsuri, who bagged a gold in the girls' Class E (55-59kg) match category.
However, the Outram Secondary School student's victory was secured in a rather protracted manner.
According to Sheik, the opposing camp protested a call made by the referee midway through her semi-final against an Indonesian.
As the protest was happening, a member of the Indonesian coaching staff began pouring water onto the competition mat, before angrily hurling the empty plastic bottle. Sheik protested against the behaviour, saying it was grounds for disqualification.
After a 20-minute delay, the match continued and Sharifah, who was leading before the incident, eventually lost by one point.
Sheik said he paid US$200 ($283), according to the guidelines in the rulebook, to lodge a formal protest after the match.
He managed to convince the judges' chairman that the Indonesian should have been disqualified, but the Indonesian head of delegation refused to formally acknowledge the overturning of the result.
To resolve the impasse, Megat Zulkarnain Omardin, the secretary general of Malaysia's silat federation, decided to award gold medals to both Sharifah and the Indonesian, as well as a Vietnamese fighter who had won her own semi-final.
Despite the drama, Sheik said he was pleased to learn a lot about Singapore's up-and-coming junior national athletes.
"For me, it was a positive outing for our team," he said. "It was great to see parents travel up on their own to support the team.
"In terms of the athletes' performance, I would say 75 per cent are on the right path, 15 per cent need a bit more work, and the remaining 10 per cent are still not ready to compete in international competitions.
"We know what we have to do now and we'll work harder with all our athletes to make sure they develop the right way."
Singapore bagged two gold, five silver and seven bronze medals from the championship to finish as the third-best nation, behind overall winners Malaysia and second-placed Vietnam.
The championship featured 128 athletes from 12 countries, including Australia, Azerbaijan, India, Germany, Russia and South Korea.