Monday, August 11, 2008

The rise and fall of Amy...but now he's back

Amirul (fourth from right) posing for a picture with the then Sports Minister, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein shortly after his golden debut in the Manchester Commonwealth Games in 2002. From left M. Effendi Razali, Abu Hanapah Ismail, Zulkepli Abu Samah (physiotherapist), YB Razali Ibrahim (now MP for Muar), Azahar Md Taib (Harian Metro), Malay Mail weightlifter, Datuk Hishammuddin (before his keris-wielding days) and his son, Fariz Hussein, Amirul, Faizal Baharom, Roslan Othman and Matin Guntali. The weightlifters from MM and HM were obviously looking for additional stuff the morning papers would not carry! That was a real weight of expectation!

I'm pleased to see weightlifter Amirul Hamizan Ibrahim or Amy to his family and friends, bouncing back after a two-year suspension due to a doping scandal.

The 26-year old Hercules from Kuala Rompin performed fairly well on his debut outing in the Olympics yesterday with a total lift of 265kg, shattering his previous national mark of 262.5kg set in Malacca in 2002.

He was put on a pedestal after a triple gold medal effort in the Manchester Commonwealth Games six years ago but suffered a mighty fall from grace with the doping suspension in 2005.

I was there at the MICC on July 30, 2002 to give an eyewitness account on the historic occasion. Not the doping one, the triple effort lah...

AFTER weightlifter Amirul Hamizan Ibrahim lifted a total of almost five times his body weight to grab all three gold medals in the 56kg category last night, his thoughts were with his father, Ibrahim Ismail.

A phone call to convey the good news to his family at Kampung Sepakat, in Rompin, however failed.

While Malaysian Weightlifting Federation (MWF) vice-president Ong Poh Eng had offered Amirul his mobile phone to call home, the lad had forgotten the number.

But even if he had remembered the digits by heart, Amirul would not be able to speak to Ibrahim, the first person the youngster would love to share his medals with.

Ibrahim who earns a living as a lorry driver to feed his seven kids, comes home only once a week, on weekends.

Thanks to his son's exploits thousands of miles away from Rompin, things will soon change. The old man will be able to look forward to a well-deserved rest along with his wife, Rosiah Tuan Mohammad.

Following his victory at the theatre-style Manchester International Convention Centre (MICC), Amirul stands to a receive a whopping RM240,000 under the National Sports Incentive Scheme (Shakam). That is excluding the extra ringgit for cracking three Games record as well.

"I want ayah to stay at home more often. I want him to have enough rest and spend more time with the family.

"With the money from the incentive scheme, I will finance my parents' trip to umrah (minor pilgrimage). Then I would have to persuade ayah to take things easy," Amirul, a graduate of the NSC's centre of excellence in Rompin, promised.

Yet the three gold medals, Malaysia's first in the Manchester Games and weightlifting's biggest haul since 1950, could have easily slipped from Amirul's grasp.

A technical error by the officials kept the 20-odd Malaysians at the venue, including National Sports Council (NSC) director-general, Datuk Wira Mazlan Ahmad and the contingent's general team manager, S. Jahendran, at the edge of their seats.

A mix-up between the announcer and the officials who were preparing the entry list caused Amirul's first lift in the snatch to be declared no lift as he did not appear at the platform within the time allowed.

Fortunately the matter was rectified and Amirul, who took up the sport as a 15-year old in 1996, was awarded another first attempt.

Desperate to avoid any technical errors which could smash his dreams into smithereens, Amirul jogged to the platform before going on to equal Mehmet Yagci's Games record of 107.5kg in his first attempt.

He went on to register 112.5kg and 115kg in the following attempts to take the first of three golds.

Weighing in at 55.85kg and disturbed by a shoulder injury picked up during training in Indonesia, Amirul displayed confidence and nerves of steel belying his 20-years to win the clean and jerk.

When his closest rivals from India, Thandava Muthu and Vickey Batta failed to muster the energy to match Amirul's second attempt at 140kg, the Malaysian decided to go for 145kg in his third attempt. And the Games record fell yet again for a combined total of 260kg, beating Arumugam Pandian's 245kg in 1998.

"I was not confident about the snatch but I thought I could win the clean and jerk. To win all three has surpassed my wildest dreams," said Amirul.

Amirul's victory was a form of consolation for coach Matin Guntali as well. The Sabahan came close to twice but he could only managed a silver and a bronze in 1994 and 1998 respectively.

Amirul's story shall not end here. His best remains 262.5kg in the recent National Championship in Malacca.

"Obviously my next target is the Athens Olympics."

For that, Amirul requires the Olympic Solidarity grant under the International Olympic
Council (IOC).

Till then, Amirul's next mission is to ensure his father stays at home.

A few days later I did a feature on him.

A NEW Malaysian star was uncovered in Manchester as a kampung boy who used to lift gas cylinders for fun enjoyed a dream debut by grabbing three gold medals in a city best known for its Theatre of Dreams.

As Manchester braces for the close to a two-week sporting extravaganza marked by a number of world class performances in the 17th Commonwealth Games, Malaysia's undoubted numero uno is weightlifter Amirul Hamizan Ibrahim, or Amy to his family members in Kampung Sepakat, Kuala Rompin.

If Amirul keeps his feet firmly on the ground, sticks to the script and not fluff his lines, the new Commonwealth champion could continue piling up the medals.

Observers and officials alike worry that Amirul, who picked up the sport in 1996, might let money and fame cloud his judgment.

His family background shall guarantee nothing untoward is going to happen. Instead, the down-to-earth attitude could lead to a medal-churning career.

Despite becoming only the fourth Malaysian ever to pick up a gold medal at the Games since 1950, Amirul shows a mixture of wisdom and disarming naivety which makes him hard to dislike.

Shortly after undergoing the dope test following his historic win at the theatre-style Manchester International Convention Centre (MICC), Amirul was given the opportunity to call up his parents.

Surprisingly in an era when the average 21-year old would be busy sending SMS and emails to just about everybody, Amirul could not remember the digits by heart.

Only when a Malaysian journalist offered Amirul his mobile phone a day later that the youngster managed to speak to his parents, Ibrahim Ismail and Rosiah Tuan Mohammad.

"I tried calling my parents from the public phones but I could not get through. Abah was very pleased, mak had gone to a nearby grocery shop. Abah told me that three journalists had gone to the house to speak with him."

A chunk of the RM240,000 he stands to receive under the National Sports Incentive Scheme (Shakam) would go to his parents.

For the past 30 years, Ibrahim, 51, has been struggling to make ends meet. Apart from transporting plywood nationwide as a lorry driver, Ibrahim does a bit of farming to feed his seven children.

Amirul's journey from Kuala Rompin to the industrial city famed for Manchester United and David Beckham's bending free-kicks has been a long and arduous one.

Amirul was not that interested in sports. But the sight of the weightlifters such as Abdul Rahman Ahmad lifting the barbells at the training centre in Rompin caught his attention. His family did not discourage him. They felt at least Amirul could kill time doing something that he liked.

In between the various local competitions, training stints at Bukit Jalil and the Games in Manchester, Amy spent a few months at Lampung in Indonesia, under the supervision of a weightlifting guru.

"I used to lift gas cylinders and my siblings just to show off what I had learned at the centre," said Amirul, referring to the National Sports Council (NSC)'s centre at Rompin.

"The Chinese coaches based in Rompin showed us the way. Of course without their guidance I would not be in Manchester."

In Lampung, he suffered a horrific injury when the barbell fell on his left hand. He feared the worst.

"There was no doctor to attend to him," revealed teammate Hidayat Hamidon. "Thankfully the coach was at hand to apply the bandage on Amirul's hand. It was awful but he is a strong lad."

"It was great to make a little piece of history not only for myself but for the sport as well," said Amirul after following in the footsteps of gold medallists Koh Eng Tong and Tho Fook Hong in Auckland'50 and Hidayat in KL'98.

In 2005, I wrote a different angle altogether!

IN 2002, Malaysia feted him like a king. Today the world has turned gloom for weightlifter Amirul Hamizan Ibrahim.

Amirul, who was triple gold medallist in the Manchester Commonwealth Games three years ago, will be denied a chance to defend his title in Melbourne next year after testing positive in an out of competition dope test by the National Sports Institute (ISN) in February.

Question is, did he do it knowingly or unknowingly.

Both his A and B urine samples - sent to the doping lab at Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) - were found to be positive with traces of anabolic steroid.

Attempts to speak to Amirul proved futile.

The son of a lorry driver is believed to be back at Kuala Rompin, near the scenes where he first nurtured his passion for weightlifting by lifting gas cylinders.

According to World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) regulations, an athlete who has been found positive for banned substances is automatically banned for two years.

The Malaysian Weightlifting Federation (MWF) are expected to announce Amirul's positive test anytime now.

Amirul is the biggest name to be embroiled in a doping scandal since fellow Pahang-born athlete, sprinter Azmi Ibrahim, who was banned for two years in 1996 for using masking agent furosemide during the Malaysia Games in Kuantan.

It is learnt Amirul had been summoned by the MWF disciplinary board who will in turn submit their report to the MWF exco for further action.

Malaysian Association of Doping Control in Sports (Masdoc) chairman, Datuk Dr M. Jegathesan, declined to comment, saying the matter was in the hands of the association.

ISN director, Dr Ramlan Abdul Aziz, also declined comment.

Amirul bathed himself in glory near the Theatre of Dreams of Old Trafford in 2002 when he lifted three gold medals in record style in the 56kg category.

He broke the clean and jerk record with a lift of 145kg, on top of the 115kg in snatch for an overall lift of 260kg.

It was learnt that due to the positive samples, Amirul was not allowed to participate in the Islamic Solidarity Games (ISG) in Saudi Arabia in April.

1 comment:

Ahmad A Talib said...


Amirul must have learnt his lesson well. I hope he has. Not only for himself and his family, but for Msian sports as well. Too often we have sportsmen with potential being treated like heroes and legends, only to be thrashed by the sporting media at the very next competition where they play badly or out of form. One day, the person is hailed and feted. The next day, the person is slayed and made to look a has been. Some sportsmen cant tackle the publicity when they are made heroes. They become big headed, arrogant and think they are God sent. Sometimes, it serves them right to be treated like has beens the next day. Champions rise and fall all the time, and that is what separate them from the average runners and also-rans..