Saturday, March 5, 2011

SAM-100Plus 'Athlete of the Year' race too close to call

KUALA LUMPUR (March 5, 2011): The race to be crowned the SAM-100PLUS 'Athlete of the Year' Awards 2010 winner is too close to call.

Sportswriters Association of Malaysia (SAM) president Ahmad Khawari Isa said the award, which will be presented tomorrow, has seen all five nominees - five-time world squash champion Datuk Nicol David, world No. 1 shuttler Datuk Lee Chong Wei and Kierin king Mohd Azizulhasni Awang (cycling), diver Pandalela Rinong and shooter Nur Suryani Taibi - each receiving their fair share of votes.

"Like last year, the voting is done by SAM members instead of a panel. We felt this is fairer as the writers are the ones who cover the athletes all the time," said Khawari.

"The members are delighted to be part of the process and have come out in force to name the best athlete and this has resulted in a close race."

The ‘Athlete of the Year’ will take home RM10,000 in prize money and a trophy while a special ‘Outdo Yourself’ award will also be announced during the SAM-100PLUS Award ceremony.

Pandelela created history when she won Malaysia’s first ever diving gold medal at the Commonwealth Games after defeating several top divers to win the women’s 10-metre platform event.

Going into her last dive, the Sarawak athlete needed a high score of 80.05 points to secure the gold. Pandelela did not crack under pressure but instead rose to the occasion and scored 81.60 points to deliver the historic gold medal.

She also won two silver medals at the inaugural Youth Olympics in Singapore.

Suryani delivered a gold and a bronze in the Commonwealth Games. She scored 496.9 in the women's 10m air rifle individual event to finish third. Team mate Nur Ayuni Halim (497.5) was second. Suryani and Ayuni then teamed up to beat Jasmine Ser and Cheng Jian Huan 793-790 to take the gold medal in the 10m rifle women's pairs event.

It was only the second time in the history of the Games that Malaysia struck gold in the shooting event. The first was at the 1998 KL Games when Nurul Huda Bahrain won the 10m air rifle individual event.

To cap off a wonderful year, Suryani then won a bronze medal in the women's 10m air rifle event to become the first-ever Malaysian female shooter to win a shooting medal in the Asian Games.

Azizulhasni, who won this prestigious award last year, ended a 40-year drought when he won the gold medal in the Asian Games keirin cycling event.

The Terengganu lad was also crowned overall winner 2010 Keirin World Cup. He had also finished first in his pet event at the Commonwealth Games but was unfairly disqualified

Chong Wei, meanwhile, continued his dominance of the badminton world, winning 10 titles after taking part in 12 Open tournaments in 2010.

Besides retaining the Commonwealth Games team and individual gold medals, Chong Wei also triumphed in eight international tournaments, including six Super Series titles in Hong Kong, South Korea, Malaysia, Switzerland, Indonesia and Japan.

He also bagged GP Gold titles in Malaysia and Macau and was a silver medallist at the Asian Games.

Nicol ruled supreme in squash, and was unbeaten in 12 tournaments last year. The Penangite also won all her nine Women’s International Squash Players Association (Wispa) titles last year en route to winning a record equalling fifth world title and was crowned WISPA player of the year for the sixth consecutive time.

She was also the only Malaysian to win gold medals at the Commonwealth and Asian Games.

Meanwhile, there are two additional awards with the introduction of the inaugural 'Anugerah SAM Atlit Remaja Terbaik' (Young Athlete) and also an 'Anugerah Khas' (Special Award) for a National Sports Association (NSA) to recognise their most promising athlete at the awards ceremony.

The 'Atlit Remaja' award is the brainchild of SAM in their bid to recognise and motivate the future stars of Malaysia. The SAM Exco decided that the recipient of this award should be 18 and below. The winning recipient picked by SAM will receive an incentive of RM3,000 and a trophy.