Nominee #5: Sheik Farhan Sheik Alau'ddin (silat)

ST Athlete of the Year: Pain no barrier

Silat exponent Sheik Farhan Sheik Alau’ddin is one of the nominees for ST’s Athlete of the Year Award. 2016 was Sheik Farhan’s best year, but for about 15 minutes last year, the 19-year-old had feared that it would turn out to be his worst.
Sheik Farhan Sheik Alau'ddin overcame an injury to his left knee to win the Class J (90-95kg) final at the World Pencak Silat Championships in Bali in December last year. It was his second world title, but he said the injury could potentially have de
Sheik Farhan Sheik Alau'ddin overcame an injury to his left knee to win the Class J (90-95kg) final at the World Pencak Silat Championships in Bali in December last year. It was his second world title, but he said the injury could potentially have destroyed his "biggest dream".ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Not even an injury could hamper teenager's successful quest in retaining his world title

Last year was silat exponent Sheik Farhan Sheik Alau'ddin's best in the sport, but for about 15 minutes, the 19-year-old feared that it would turn out to be his worst.

A week before the World Pencak Silat Championships in Bali in early December, when he was defending his Class J (90-95kg) world title, Farhan twisted his left knee during a training session. Instantly reminded of the right knee ligament strain which had plagued him in March and required a month of recovery, Farhan feared that he would have to withdraw from the world titles.

"It's like your biggest dream could be destroyed because of just one injury," he said.

Recalling that the 15 minutes of icing following the injury had been "scary", he added: "I was just waiting to see if this injury was as bad as the previous one. After icing my knee, I realised it wasn't as bad as the last time when I couldn't even bend my right knee.

"If I hadn't been able to compete at the world championships because of injury, then it would have been the worst year despite everything else I had won."

The Nanyang Polytechnic student, who claimed titles at last year's National Championships, Asian Championships and Asian Beach Games, fought through his pain to bag his second straight world title, ending his year on a high note.

Farhan added: "I wasn't fighting at 100 per cent; my knee still hurt but luckily (the injury wasn't severe enough to prevent me from winning)."

"That's why the injury was tough - it's like your biggest dream could be destroyed just like that."

While his status as the reigning Class J world champion meant that others had greater expectations of him, Farhan insisted that this pressure never bothered him - rather, it was his injury that led to self-doubt.

"I never saw the challenge as a title defence. I just thought of it as wanting to win another title, (as I do in) every competition I go for," he said.

"So I didn't feel nervous even though everyone was watching to see if I would retain my title or if my first one was just a fluke, because I was focused on my own preparation.

"But the injury weakened me and affected my self-confidence, and it was more about that than what other people thought of me."

Farhan's 5-0 win over Vietnam's Mach Quoc Hung to retain his world title did indeed silence the critics who wondered if his first victory had been a fluke.

He said: "My dad kept telling me after I won that he was happy because he finally didn't have to acknowledge the people who thought I was just lucky the first time.

"Leading up to the world championships, a lot of people were asking my dad about it ... it felt nice to prove them wrong."

Farhan's father is Sheik Alau'ddin, a two-time silat world champion and chief executive officer of the Singapore Silat Federation.

Although the teenager was the first of the latter's six children to win a world title, he insisted that matching his father's feats was never his aim.

"My dad is who he is and I am who I am," said Farhan, who is the fourth child in the family.

"To me, he is the best in the sport and I don't wish to prove that I'm better than him - I could win 10 world titles and I still wouldn't think I'm a better athlete than he is.

"I want to win competitions not because I want to beat my dad, but simply because I just want to win."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 11, 2017, with the headline 'Pain no barrier'. Print Edition | Subscribe