Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The medal that I didn't like

I remember that day December 14, 2006. The day I was on my feet on the stands in the velodrome at the Aspire Dome in Doha, Qatar as Josiah Ng led from the start of the off (motor-pacer opens the race).

Jo had led strongly in the keirin final, as almost a quarter of the Malaysian contingent in Doha screamed from the stands in anticipation of what would have been Malaysia's final gold medal of that Asian Games.

It almost happened. It almost happened if not for South Korea's Kang Dong Jin pipping the Malaysian right on the finish line. While some Malaysians were already jumping for joy, thinking Jo had won the gold, which would have been Malaysia's first in cycling since Daud Ibrahim in the 1970 Asian Games.

I'd written all year that this would be the year my friend Josiah would deliver the gold for Malaysia. And now I was shattered. What would I write?

I waited till the end of the medal ceremony, tears almost trickling down my cheek as I felt almost lonely in a crowd, sitting on the stands. I was disappointed as I watched the Jalur Gemilang hoisted beneath the South Korean flag as an anthem alien to me was played. This small, 21-year old Korean nobody had torn our hearts to pieces.

As the ceremonies ended, the keirin, being an indiginous Asian event, was aptly the final cycling event of the 2006 Asian Games, I pushed myself down the steps into the common area where interviews with athletes were conducted.

There was Jo and he realised how disappointed I was. "Hey buddy, it's okay man. It was too bad. I led all the way, I bloody gave Kang a two-lap lead out," said Jo.

As we exchanged hugs I settled down. and gathered a smile. Jo then took off the silver medal and let me have a feel of what an Asian Games medal was like. I told him I felt like throwing that medal away. "I know, wrong colour huh? Here..." he proceeded to put the medal around my neck and we took this photo.

"It's the Olympics from now. I've got less than two years. This is done, it just didn't happen," Jo just took everything positively.

I'd felt the same as I watched just two years earlier as Jo momentarily led the 2004 Athens Olympics keirin final. He'd finished fifth eventually, but he'd captured the hearts of the nation, surely. He was the first ever Malaysian to line up in an Olympic final.

I had a feel of the Asian Games medal. I didn't like silver. I never liked silver and I'm never gonna like silver...... Its 2008 and Olympic year... I want to feel gold. But deep in my heart, if the medal's got those five rings on it, I wouldn't even care if it were bronze.