KUALA LUMPUR: The huge leap in performance shown by triple jumper Muhammad Hakimi Ismail is what landed him the coveted flag bearer’s role at the upcoming Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) and Podium Programme had unanimously agreed on giving Hakimi the responsibility.
“After struggling with injury he did well to come back strong, show good improvement and qualified for the Commonwealth Games, this is the kind of example we are looking for,” said Khairy today.
“We do not just want to choose ‘branded’ athletes who are popular as flag bearer, those who show good improvement should also be recognised.”
Hakimi, 27, suffered a left ankle injury in 2016 which hampered his performance for nine months. He, however, came back strong to win the gold in a new games and national record of 16.77 metres at the Kuala Lumpur Sea Games last year.
It was also the third time in a row the Podium Programme athlete had broken the national record at the Sea Games after the 2013 Myanmar (16.44m) and 2015 Singapore (16.76m) games.
“I feel very happy to be selected as flag bearer, it is a great honour for myself and also the sport of athletics,” said Hakimi.
“I had been told that I was shortlisted but only knew today that I had been selected.”
Meanwhile, national athletics coach Zainal Abas is hoping the acknowledgement given to Hakimi will spur the rest of his young squad.
“It has been too long since a track and field athlete was given the honour of being flag bearer. I believe Hakimi will give him added motivation to do well and finish on the podium.”