SEA Games: After 'years of doubting myself', Singapore's Nurul Suhaila finally wins silat gold

The 27-year-old beat Malaysia's Siti Shazwana Ajak 30-22 in the women's Class E (65-70kg) tanding final. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH
Nurul Suhaila competes against Malaysia’s Siti Shazwana in the womens 65-70kg tanding silat finals at the 31st SEA Games on May 16. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH
Nurul Suhaila was in tears after her match with Malaysia’s Siti Shazwana. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

HANOI - Soft creases began to appear on Nurul Suhaila Saiful’s face at the Bac Tu Liem Gymnasium in Hanoi on Monday (May 16).

The pencak silat exponent had, at long last, claimed the gold medal at the SEA Games after three consecutive bronze medals.

Although she had been able to keep a cool exterior after beating Malaysia’s Siti Shazwana Ajak 30-22 in the women’s Class E (65-70kg) tanding final, her emotions spilled over as she reflected on her accomplishment.

Her win helped the Republic’s exponents to their best showing at the SEA Games, with four gold, three silver and four bronze medals. The haul bettered the 3-2-10 in 2003, also in Hanoi.

“(After) so many years of doubting myself... getting the bronze medal three times was very hard for me,” said Suhaila, 27, cheeks flushed and lips trembling.

“I spend a lot of time away from my family (because of silat), so this time I wanted to make my parents proud and prove to them that the time away is worth it. 

“It’s for me to grow and to be the best athlete I can be. So I hope my parents are proud of me.”

Suhaila’s gold was the first of three that silat won on Monday. Iqbal Abdul Rahman picked up the Republic’s other gold in the men’s artistic singles last Wednesday.

Hazim Yusli won the men’s Class C (55-60kg) title via disqualification after an illegal kick to his jaw by Indonesian opponent Yachser Arafa.

Sheik Farhan then retained his Class J (90-95kg) title – he won it the last time it featured in the SEA Games, in 2017 – after Thailand’s Saranon Glompan forfeited midway through the second round.

Saranon’s corner threw in the towel with the score 13-(-6), after he suffered a 15-point deduction following two verbal warnings.

The Thai’s coaches, who had requested a change of referee and judges early in the second round, left their corner shaking their heads and gesticulating at the officials with their thumbs down.

Singapore were also involved in two other finals but fell short.

Abdul Raazaq Abdul Rashid was beaten 42-14 by home favourite Tran Dinh Nam in the men’s Class F (70-75kg) final, while in the Class G (75-80kg), Sheik Ferdous withdrew on doctor’s orders as another Vietnamese, Nguyen Tan Sang took the gold.

A day earlier, Ferdous had received an illegal punch in the face in his semi-final against Suthat Bunchit, which resulted in the Thai’s disqualification.

SPH Brightcove Video
HANOI - Nurul Suhaila Saiful’s win helped the Republic’s exponents to their best showing at the SEA Games. The Singapore silat team's haul of four gold, three silver and four bronze medals bettered the 3-2-10 in 2003.

Noting the slew of disqualifications at the Games under silat’s new rules, Singapore head coach Sheik Alau’ddin said: “A lot of countries don’t understand the rules, so they thought we were trying to... fix the game.

“Nevertheless, I’m very happy with our showing because our athletes worked and trained hard for this... And this effort encompasses a lot of support stuff too. With everybody giving their best, thank God, we now have our best result.”

For Hazim, who went up a weight class after winning gold in Class B (50-55kg) in 2019, the suffering he endured – he had cuts on his lower lip from illegal blows – was worth the gold.

Smiling broadly, he said: “I feel like Conor McGregor, winning in two weight divisions.”

Farhan, who is the flagbearer for Team Singapore at the Hanoi Games, was proud of his teammates and said: “This is the best Singapore (silat) team that has competed at the SEA Games.. So I’m glad to be part of this family and contribute a medal.”

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.