Abdul Hakeem is a young promising athlete. Though he display great success in the hurdlers he can qualities of being a sprinter too. His recent achievement include Commonwealth Youth Games, that’s a big feat from a small nation of ours. We talked to this young lad to find out what makes him ‘tick’
Date of Birth: 9th February 1987
Coach: Uli Kunst
Personal Best: 100m – 11.00s 110Hurdles(.991) – 14.17 110Hurdles(1.067) – 14.95
- You’re one of Singapore’s brightest hope in the hurdles. But you also have shown potential in other events such as relays and sprints. So which event is your favourite. To you, what’s special about that event
I don’t really have a favorite. Each event requires different tactics and techniques. For the hurdles, it’s more a case of controlled rhythm-based speed, whereas the relay requires more teamwork and all out speed. The 100m is a different animal altogether, with different techniques deployed at different points of the race. I find it very interesting how different techniques in running can make the difference between a good timing and a fantastic one, and I have only begun to explore my capabilities in the 100m this year. However, I would have to say that since i’ve had the most success in the hurdles, it is my preferred event. Crossing the barriers give me a sense of freedom, knowing there’s one less obstacle to clear before the finish.
- I just want to ask. Where do you keep that bronze medal you won at 2004 Commonwealth Youth Games in Australia? Is that your most prized trophy? How was that overseas competition compared to local competitions held in Singapore
My parents recently got a glass cabinet to keep my trophies in, and rest assured, that Commonwealth Youth bronze takes center stage. I treasure all trophies, but the CYG medal really helped me realise that non-asians can be beaten afterall. The competition itself was incredible, we were looking at the best in the commonwealth, with amazing timings and distances in all the events. It was a real eye opener.
- We’ve to ask you this and we’ve asked every single athlete interviewed the same question. ‘How did you get started with Track/Field’
I was in primary school, same school coincidentally with Phang Xiao Feng and Yusof. Woodlands Primary School introduced me to track with Mr Max Chua being the teacher in charge. It was in SJI where I started hurdling, due to my tall frame. I was also a high jumper in SJI, until i switched permanently to the Sprints and Hurdles in sec 4.
- How does RJC cater or helped a student with your hectic schedule of training and studying. What more do you think can be done to help student-athletes like you
RJC the school doesn’t really do much to help us out, but RJC the community did. Teachers are always willing to meet after school if we have any questions, and help us catch up if we missed any lessons due to competitions overseas. I personally feel that the issue of travel needs to be addressed. My school is in Bishan, and i train in Gombak. It’s an almost hour long trip from Bishan to Gombak, and by the time i arrive, I’m tired from the journey. I hope the SSC or SAAA can help get a carpool for student athletes, from school to training ground.
- What do you think of Sports School
I actually trained the whole of last year, under Mr Rainer Paul. I have the say the facilities are top notch, and the students friendly. However, i hope they can look into helping not just their own students, but also athletes who are too old for the school, but need a training ground. I hope they accept that their obligation isn’t only to their students who pay or get scholarships amounting to over $10000 a year, but rather to the athletes of Singapore. If we don’t help each other, and if the Sports School itself doesn’t help, then we aren’t progressing as a sporting nation.
- What areas of your training or running that you are weak at or in need of improvement. And what’s your biggest fear in Track/Field, eg; maybe fear of losing, etc …
Personally, i think that my hurdling technique can be improved greatly. And my endurance is nothing to shout about either. I will also like to improve on my flat speed too in the years to come, and hopefully be in the relay squad soon. My biggest fear, not running my best, and long distances haha
- How do you cope handling injury and training hard. Any advise to budding athletes on recovery, nutrition, etc perhaps
I’ve had my fair share of injuries, almost all on my hamstrings. I go for twice weekly physiotheraphy sessions in Gombak Stadium now, to keep my muscles in tip top condition. The best advice i can give is to wait till you fully recover before doing proper workouts.
- Who are the people who has made a big impact in your life. The people who has helped you to get to where you are now
My teachers in charge in SJI, Mr Low June Meng and Mr Irwan, who brought me into the track and field team in Sec 1, my SJi teammates, in particular Salman and Boon Keng, who had given me constant encouragement, and in fact still do, Mr Rainer Paul, who coached me since sec 3 till the end of last year, and Coach Uli Kunst, who made me realise my sprint potential this year. And of course my parents who supported my training all the way.
- You recently went overseas training few months back. with a group of Singapore sprinters. Tell us the experience there.
It was amazing. I got to see how top class athletes train, their training facilities, and the weather they train in. We went to various competitions aroung Germany, and even Switzerland. Shameer got to take a photo with former world long jump James Beckford, whom he beat in a 100m race haha The weather was erratic, and i swore never to take Singapore weather for granted ever again. There was one competition, where it was 15 degrees, raining, and i had to endure 4 false starts!The trip taught me alot about racing, and how to keep your cool in tough conditions, and races. The dry climate made training easier though; we didn’t sweat as much. And i met a guy my age, who was almost a second faster than me in the hurdles..it was a great experience to live track and field for 19 days.without a care in the world.
- What kind of mentality do you think is needed to be a successful athlete. Our glory days of Kunalan, Jayamani and Ong Yoke Phee are the ‘golden era’ of Singapore Athletics and we’ve ever since then have to play catch-up or rope-in foreign imports to be on par with other SouthEast Asia countries. Do you ever think we’ll have our ‘golden era’ back again?
I feel that as long as an athlete is confident in his own abilities, he can spur himself on to greater times. He can never let self-doubt interfere with his race plan. A golden era can only happen when there is a batch of athletes so good that it grabs the eye of the nation, and i feel that this up and coming batch may me able to accomplish just that.
- Singapore track scene is brimming with young potential athletes and we’ve shown that many a-times at junior Asian meets or international meets, but it seems they seem to ‘waver’ or ‘burn-out’ when they’re progressing to senior level. What do you think are the factors that attribute to such ‘burn-outs’ and do you think the locals athletes/coaches are doing it with the right mindset in terms of ‘training & competing’ wise
As i have mentioned a few times, i feel local coaches need to look beyond just the national schools when preparing an athlete. Once an athlete starts specific training at a young age, there is a high likelihood that he will burnout in the future. I can name many examples, people such as Liong Chee Pang, who held the 100m C div record before Yusof took it. If local coaches think long term, instead of just the nationals schools, then i know we can do well in the future. For example, Ladji Docoure, and Allen Johnson, both top hurdlers, started as Decathletes before specializing in the hurdles.
- Any last comments … or comments to budding athletes?
Continue training hard, and listen to your body.
- How did you react when you first heard with your inclusion in the SEA Games squad. Who told you or how did you found out? Were you expecting it? Any changes to track & training-wise now that you’ve secured your ticket to Manila? Maybe few overseas competition to prepare you perhaps? Being one of the youngest participant going to SEA Games in the Track/Field contingent, how does it feels to don the national colours as such a young age at one of the biggest event in our sporting calendar
Actually, my coach and i were pretty confident that they would include me in the squad. But, when i saw how many people were nominated, and how many were selected in the end, it made me think how lucky i was to get selected. So i am pretty glad the selection process is over, and they picked me. Right now though, I’m studying quite intensively for my A levels, so no more overseas competitions. Training has also been cut down to only 3 times a week, from the usual 4, and I’ve been doing more weights to get my strength back up. And, I have Wang Kan for company there, so i won’t be the youngest, he is actually the same age as me. I am going to take from this the experience of representing Singapore in a major games, and apply it to the many sea games i hope to go to in the future. This one is gonna be for the experience, and the next one, if all goes well, will be my arrival.
Thank you Hakeem for your participation!
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