Hairi wants to be better than Shu Wai
KUALA LUMPUR: National back-up artistic gymnast Hairi Zaid has declared that he wants to be better than Ng Shu Wai.
After 10 years of hard work, true grit and sacrifices, the 20-year-old Hairi is waiting for the big breaks to strut his stuff.
Just five months after joining the national team, he gave indication of his ability to become the country’s star gymnast after Shu Wai when he bagged two bronze medals from the floor exercise and vault events at the South Africa Cup last November.
It was his first big success in an international tournament. And with growing confidence, he has vowed to work hard to gain selection to represent Malaysia in major events this year.
“My name may not ring a bell to many because I have spent most of my gymnastics career in Kelantan. But last year, I took the big step to join the national team (in Bukit Jalil),” said Hairi.
The decision reunited Hairi with national chief coach Pavel Todorov, who handles the other back-up gymnasts as well, among them Hoe He Hao, Hoe He Ping, Daniel Iskandar Richard, Chan Chong Yuan, Mohd Syazwan Sahimi and Mohd Hamzaruddin Nordin.
China’s Zhang Lichen trains the elite group of Lum Wan Foong, Mohd Azzam Azmi, Mohd Shahril Johari, Mohd Azlan Shah, Wan Mohd Akmal Hakim and Zulhawari Abuar Zulkifli.
Hairi qualifies to be in the elite squad but he chose to remain in the back-up squad to train under Todorov.
“I have trained under Pavel since I was 10. He left to coach the national team last year and I decided to follow him,” he said.
“This is the second time that I have been given the opportunity to train in the national team. I was in the squad in 2006 but after eight months, I left. I found it difficult to cope under different coaches but this time, I aim to stay focused.”
At the national level, Hairi did well to win gold medals at the last two Sukma (Malaysia Games) – in Alor Setar in 2006 and in Kuala Terengganu in 2008.
Hairi added that he had set a new objective since joining the national team.
“Shu Wai was the last top gymnast for Malaysia on the international stage and I want to be better than him. This is the target that keeps me going strong in the team,” he said.
“I know Shu Wai personally and I admire his commitment to training. He did not complain and always sought ways to improve himself. My game plan will be the same.”
Olympian Shu Wai left the national team in 2008 and since then, there had been a dearth of talent in the men’s artistic team.
Due to injury in 2008 and the lack of competitions, Hairi was unable to gauge his strength against the others in the elite squad. But if his determination is anything to go by, he will give them a good run for their money this year.
His first international assignment this year is the World Cup in Qatar next month.