Thursday, July 10, 2008

Bearing the flag

This attractive lady (above) is Hannah Beech. She reminded me of Liv Tyler when our paths crossed in the city steeped in tradition, Athens, in 2004.
A few steps outside the Olympic village, there was an area reserved for the Press to mingle with the athletes. She was busy jotting down notes. You see, Hannah was Time magazine Shanghai bureau chief at that time. The subject of her interview was our diver, Bryan Nickson Lomas (below) Reuters pic taken in Athens.

Hannah was not the only journalist who wanted a piece of Bryan. Everybody else wanted to - from Suddeutsche Zeitung to the foreign wires - for the Sarawakian lad was not only the youngest, smallest and lightest male competitor of the Athens Games, but he too was given the honour of being the Malaysian contingent's flagbearer.
Bryan remains a member of the select band of 11 personalities to be bestowed the honour.
Here's the full list since Malaya made their debut in Melbourne in 1956.
The Melbourne Games 1956 - Tan Kim Bee (weightlifting)
The Rome Games 1960 - Kuda Ditta (athletics)
The Tokyo Games 1964 - Shaharudin Mohd Ali (athletics) now Datuk
The Mexico Games 1968 - Nashatar Singh (athletics) now Datuk
The Munich Games 1972 - Ali Bakar (football)
The Montreal Games 1976 - Ishtiaq Mobarak (athletics)
The Los Angeles Games 1984 - Sabiamad Abdul Ahad (shooting)
The Seoul Games 1988 - Nordin Mohd Jadi (athletics)
The Barcelona Games 1992 - Razif Sidek (badminton)
The Atlanta Games 1996 - Nor Saiful Zaini Nasiruddin (hockey)
The Sydney Games 2000 - Mirnawan Nawawi (hockey)
The Athens Games 2004 - Bryan Nickson Lomas (diving)
I sent the following dispatch from Athens as a preview to the opening ceremony.
HE tips the scale at a mere 33kg but the moment diver Bryan Nickson Lomas carries the Jalur Gemilang during the march past at the Olympic Stadium in Maroussi on Friday (Saturday 2am, Malaysia), he will be among giants.

Barely 14, Bryan is set to join the select band of 11 Olympians to have carried the flag.

The Iban boy from Kuching is certainly the youngest, smallest and lightest of all, and only the second Sarawakian to lead the contingent out from the dugout, exactly 40 years after hurdler Kuda Ditta, a policeman from Miri, performed the honour in the Tokyo Games.

Success in terms of medals, however, eluded Bryan's illustrious predecessors, except for shuttler Mohd Razif Sidek, who partnered his younger sibling, Jalani to the bronze in Barcelona `92.

Almost four decades earlier, weightlifter Tan Kim Bee was accorded the honour of carrying the flag in Melbourne in 1956 when Malaysia, then Malaya, were first represented at the Games.

Although he did not mount the podium, the Melbourne experience helped Kim Bee become the first Malaysian to win a bronze medal in weightlifting at the Asian Games in Tokyo two years later.

Hurdler Ishtiaq Mobarak survived a horrific crash in 1970 and carried the flag in Montreal'76 where he became only the second Malaysian after Datuk Dr. M. Jegathesan to qualify for the semifinal in an Olympic event.

But the true flag man of the nation was Nashatar Singh, who was born in Punjab.

He was the national contingent's flagbearer in all major multi-sport festivals for 10 straight years.
The next day, this piece appeared in the Old Malay Mail.
FOR a moment in time early this morning, the eyes of the world were fixed on the Malaysian contingent as the Olympic family celebrated the homecoming of the Games.
Clad in beige-coloured Malay traditional dress, the baju Melayu Teluk Belanga Johor style (round neck collar fastened by one button) with yellow, red and blue motifs on the samping tied P. Ramlee style, the contingent marched past with a three-time Olympian and former National Scientist of the Year leading them out of the dug-out and the smallest, youngest and lightest male competitor of the Games as the flagbearer.
The spotlight, naturally, fell on Bryan Nickson Lomas. The 14-year-old became only the 11th flagbearer in Malaysian history,following in the footsteps of Tan Kim Bee (1956), Shaharuddin Mohd Ali(1960), Kuda Ditta (1964), Nashatar Singh (1968), Ali Bakar (1972),Ishtiaq Mobarak (1976), Sabiamad Abdul Ahad (1984), Nordin Mohd Jadi(1988), Razif Sidek (1992), Nor Saiful Zaini Nasiruddin (1996) and Mirnawan Nawawi (2000).
The contingent emerged from the dugout after Morocco and were represented by 11 athletes. The rest were swimmers Allen Ong, Saw Yi Khy, divers Leong Mun Yee and Gracie Junita Terry Pega, sprinter Nazmizan Muhammad and race walker YuanYufang, sailor Kevin Lim, women's badminton doubles Chin Ee Hui-Wong PeiTty and shooter Ricky Teh.
The remaining 13 were excused to prepare for their events starting today while Josiah Ng and Elaine Teo are scheduled to arrive next week.
The officials were headed by chef-de-mission Datuk Dr M Jegathesan, a three-time Olympian and the first ever Malaysian to advance to the semi-final of the Games. He was also a recipient of the National Science Award in 1995. One of the most admired sporting heroes in Malaysia, Dr Jegathesan completes a unique distinction in Athens, having been part of the Games as an athlete, medical doctor, deputy chef-de-mission and now the CDM.
Next Tuesday, the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) Board will convene to deliberate on a few matters among which is the selection of the flagbearer. Could it be shuttler Lee Chong Wei, who has to perform the next day, cyclists Azizulhasni Awang or Josiah Ng, or taekwondo's Elaine Teo, or archery's Cheng Chu Sian or Marbawi Sulaiman? Or Bryan for a second time?


Anonymous said...

the cdm wants chong wei or azizul, depending on scheduling. but other unscrupulous forces want kevin lim. who will win? take a guess

ah chong sji87 said...

bro, bile lak ade lg sambungan Azalina & 1?
The rest of your articles pales in comparison with the abovementioned topic. panas beb!!!!

ah chong sji87 said...

bro, bile lg sambungan Azalina & I ha? The rest of your articles pales in comparison with the above.
Can't wait to read another panas story from a loose cannon.

ball bearing games said...

Just for the record, we have a number of talented colleagues covering the Games in Beijing. You can see their stories here, including this piece by Hannah Beech on the emotional triumph of the Chinese gymnastics team today. They'll be contributing occasional posts from the games to this blog too. The Chinese gymnastics team were spectacular and doubly motivated. Not only were they in front of a home crowd but they'd lost at Athens (came fifth actually) when they were defending world and Olympic champions. That clearly rankled: almost to a man the gymnasts and coaches mentioned that fact in their TV interviews after getting the Gold. The depth of the emotion generated by this win was also evident in the fact that most of the competitors were openly weeping after they won and several still choked up while being interviewed. That's pretty unusal in China, where public displays of emotion are considered bad form.

Anonymous said...

It was rather interesting for me to read that article. Thanx for it. I like such themes and anything connected to them. I would like to read a bit more soon.