SIBU: Alvin Jostine, Mohd Norhazim Ahmad and Elvin Yap Zhi Xian are stepping out of their ‘comfort zone’ as school champion sprinters. The three are now vying for a ticket to next year’s Johor Sukma to help Sarawak defend the men’s 110m hurdles title.
National hurdler Mohd Rizzua Haizad won the event in Kuching at the 2016 Sukma in 14.54sec, breaking Bala Ditta’s 54-year-old Sarawak state record. He retained his title with a time of 14.25sec (no wind indicator) in the 2018 Perak Sukma.
The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and nation-wide Movement Control Order have wrecked the national and state track and field calendar. No date has yet been set for trials to finalise athletes to represent Sarawak for the Johor Sukma next March.
But currently leading the charge is 20-year-old Alvin. He is the only one among the trio to have gone under 15secs for the 3’6” high hurdles. He clocked a personal best of 14.97secs in Sept 2019 coming in second at the Tuaran Open.
Alvin first represented Sarawak in the MSSM National Schools Championships in 2015. He was a member of the 4x100m relay quartet which won the Under-15 gold. In 2017, he did not make the final of the 100m for Under-18. However, he finished fourth in the 110m hurdles.
Norhazim outdid Alvin at the 2017 MSSM, finishing 7th in the 100m final and picking up the bronze in the 110m hurdles (3’3” for Boys U18). He collected the bronze again the following year but improved his time from 14.87 to 13.94secs. Competing in the Under-15 category at the 2016 MSSM Meet, the former SMK Lundu student had finished second in the 110m hurdles (Under-15) and won the 200m hurdles in a record time of 24.27secs.
The 19-year-old Norhazim and Alvin are currently training under former national hurdler and Asian Games medalist Noraseela Mohd Khalid, the state coach.
Elvin at 16 is the youngest of the three. The towering 1.87m Form Four student of SMK Tabuan Jaya is training under the sports school coach Rasia Lutang.
He hogged the limelight at last year’s MSSM Meet with his midas touch. He smashed the MSSM records in the 110m hurdles (3’0” for Under-15) and 200m hurdles. In both finals he beat the nearest rival by over one second, winning in 13.68 and 23.83secs. His third gold medal came in the 4x100m relay when he pipped Perak’s Mohd Azeem Fahmi to the tape in a major upset. Azeem entered the race as the winner and new record holder of the 100m and 200m.
Elvin proved his mettle by beating Norhazim and other seniors in the 110m hurdles in a time of 15.50secs at Suksar (Sarawak Games) held at the end of last year. At this year’s State Schools Championships he bettered the MSSM Under-18 record for the event with a time of 13.50secs. However, the Johor Sukma is not necessarily the highest priority for Elvin and his coach.
“He is still young and he still has two more Sukmas, the 2022 and 2024 Sukmas, to go and I do not see any necessity for him to be in a hurry,” Rasia said.
“But age is on his side and give him two more years, we can expect all the difference from the power-packed youngster,” she added.
Whoever gets selected eventually will still face a tall order in Johor next year.
The 2018 Sukma silver medalist (Benedict Gawok of Sabah: 14.46secs) and bronze medalist (Muhd Naim Abdullah of Perak: 14.92secs) will be waiting. So will Wong Chun Yee of Johor who was fifth in 2018.
The home crowd will be behind Wong who now has a personal best of 14.58secs.