Hurdler Noraseela Mohd Khalid's father Mohd Khalid Abdul Rahman passed away last Wednesday. Only when I surfed my Facebook this morning that I realised she had updated her status last Friday, telling her friends of her father's demise.
Seela, as she is known to everybody, is currently pitching her tent in Pretoria, South Africa, in her relentless pursuit to qualify for the Olympics. She came close to booking a ticket to Athens in 2004 and was plagued by injuries which scuppered her plans for Beijing 2008.
The 29-year old is also aiming to return to her once adopted country, Germany, by earning a ticket to the IAAF World Championship in Berlin later this year.
The 400m hurdler, who bagged the Asian Games bronze medal in Doha three years ago, must be shattered that she could not attend her dad's funeral.
I hold Seela in high regard. Not only has she gone faster than our icon of the 70s, Marina Chin, a feat that has gone unnoticed by the public, but Seela to me is the epitome of the modern athlete -intelligent, strong-willed and not easily cowed by officials and officialdom.
A true product of the SM Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah (SAAS) in Kajang, Seela's emergence as a hurdler of calibre was chronicled by yours truly in the Malay Mail. It began when she won the Sukma 1998 gold medal at the Shah Alam Stadium.
She completed a golden debut in the Brunei SEA Games a decade ago, becoming the first Malaysian since 1977 to win the event after Jessica Lau and her 58.70s obliterated her previous best of 60.33s and the old national record of 60.23s registered in 1983 by Oon Yee Chan.
I was there at the terraces when Noraseela bagged the bronze in the Asian Championship in Jakarta a year later, then shared her disappointment in losing to Thai hurdler Wassana Winatho in the 2001 SEA Games, before she bounced back to regain the gold in Hanoi in 2003.
When I was invited by the German Embassy for a study trip to the land of Beckenbauer et al in 2005 ahead of the 2006 World Cup, I slotted in a visit to Leipzig to see for myself Seela's training conditions and whether all the money spent on her was justified. Of course it was. But she has had to prove herself all over again to officials who are better off as politicians. Then again in her business, you are only as good as your last run.
Seela and family, including Inspektor Jamil (her brother), Norliza (sister) and hubby Raja Affandi Jamaludin (editor of Yasmin Ahmad's films), takziah from me, Intan and the whole family.