June winner: Nur Alfian Juma'en

ST Star of the Month: Bruiser with a soft centre

Nur Alfian Juma'en, The Straits Times' Star of the Month, at a silat training session. The 19-year-old won the Asian Pencak Silat Championships last month despite fracturing his hand early in the final.
Nur Alfian Juma'en, The Straits Times' Star of the Month, at a silat training session. The 19-year-old won the Asian Pencak Silat Championships last month despite fracturing his hand early in the final.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

Nur Alfian Juma'en's family inspires him as he aspires to be a role model as an athlete

Silat exponent Nur Alfian Juma'en is a two-time SEA Games gold medallist and an Asian champion, but what some may not know is that the 19-year-old's feat at last year's SEA Games is also part of a meme.

The meme features a two-picture collage - the first, a photograph of Nur Alfian tossing Vietnamese world champion Tran Dinh Nam onto the competition mat to cement the Singaporean's victory in the Class F (70-75kg) event.

The second picture is one of Nur Alfian with a Singapore flag draped across his shoulders, tears streaming down his face as the nation celebrates silat's lone gold medal of the 28th SEA Games.

The caption accompanying the meme reads: "Some athletes are like Mentos - hard on the outside, but soft on the inside".

It is an apt description of a hardened sportsman who has no problems fighting through injury to win gold medals but turns into a soft-spoken young man when he talks passionately about his two loves - his family and silat.

Nur Alfian won the Class G (75-80kg) event at the 2nd Asian Pencak Silat Championships last month, despite fracturing his hand during the first round of the final.

A year ago, he won the SEA Games gold in spite of suffering a deep cut on his foot halfway through the final.

Said Nur Alfian, who is The Straits Times' Star of the Month for June: "The one thing that drives me is my family - every time I come back from competitions, they are the first to ask me how I am.

"My family has supported me through everything."

It was also his family who sparked off Nur Alfian's involvement in silat.

"My parents enrolled my sister in a silat class that took place every Saturday at a community centre near our place in Choa Chu Kang," he said.

"I got jealous at the time because she got to go out on Saturdays and I didn't, so I asked my parents to let me join the class too."

With a smile breaking out across his face as talk turns to his beloved sport, he added: "A few years later it became more serious because I joined the national team's training programme for children aged eight and up... and here I am now."

The business studies student at Ngee Ann Polytechnic also holds a Sports Excellence scholarship awarded by Sport Singapore to elite athletes.

These days, he spends between two to three hours a day shuttling between home, school and training at the OCBC Arena.

When asked why he perseveres despite the long travelling time and gruelling training, the answer comes without hesitation: "Because I like silat."

National coach Muhammad Fiqri believes Nur Alfian has the potential to excel on a larger stage.

Said Fiqri: "He is hardworking and disciplined, and he can read his opponents very well.

"He will only improve with more training, and I can see him winning bigger events like the World Championships and the Asian Games."

But while Nur Alfian has set his sights on winning the 17th World Pencak Silat Championships in Bali at the end of the year, the teenager has bigger goals for the long term.

"I don't want to be the role model for just silat; I want to be a role model as an athlete," said Nur Alfian, who will turn 20 in October.

"Whether in silat or in any other sport, I want to inspire the next generation to unleash their potential and have the belief that they can excel."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 24, 2016, with the headline 'Bruiser with a soft centre'. Print Edition | Subscribe