Friday, June 27, 2008

Zorro on Hell

An interesting read on hell can be found on Zorro (Bernard Khoo's) blog here..
Students these days...... hehehe...

Monday, June 23, 2008

An overdue welcome back to Naim!

That's a 21-year old Khairul Naim Azhar from Negri Sembilan being assisted by start commissaire Shaninder Singh in the men's individual time trial at the recent Malaysia Games in Terengganu.
The picture below shows him finishing the time trial, in which he eventually placed eighth.

It was a huge moral victory for Naim on his comeback. On October 10 last year, Naim was riding the motorcycle that crashed and killed national rider Safwan Sawai near the national team's training camp in Senawang, Negri Sembilan. Safwan was riding pillion on Naim's motorcycle as he lost control at a corner and crashed. The trauma had caused a momentary memory loss for Naim.
I was worried for this very likeable rider, who had a promising career ahead of him. Many of us thought he would never get back on his bicycle and perform, more so regain the promise he once showed. He'd suffered through the trauma of having lost a friend and one of the most promising cyclists in the country in the late Safwan. Post-accident, Naim was a psychological shambles. He'd taken a while to get over it and continue living.
Kudos to the Negri Sembilan Cycling Association for their part in reviving his career. It is no mean feat.
Naim was his usual jovial self when met at the Negri Sembilan team tent during the Malaysia Games. He's always concerned and asking of our mutual friends, more so those whom we're used to being around in cycling races.
Welcome back Naim!

Please let them ride in France

They've done everything the Astana team - podiums in every race they enter, Alberto Contador winning the Giro d'Italia, then Andreas Kloden finishing second in the Tour de Suisse...etc. And let's get something clear. They also didn't get busted for organised doping. Alexandre Vinokourov and Andrey Kashechkin did, but that was on their own, while riding with the old Astana, before there was a wholesale revamp.

This is the list of victories this year. 17 in all to date:
17 Astana Cycling Team victories in 2008: Prologue Dauphiné Libéré (08-06) – LEIPHEIMER / Overall Classification Giro d’Italia (01-06) – CONTADOR / Overall Classification Tour de Romandie (04-05) – KLODEN / 3th stage (time trial) Tour de Romandie (02-05) – KLODEN / 1 st stage Tour de Romandie (30-04) – IGLINSKIY / Grand Prix of Istanbul (13-04) – RAST / Overall Classification Tour of Basque Country (12-04) – CONTADOR / 6th stage (time trial) Tour of Basque Country (12-04) – CONTADOR / 1 st stage Tour of Basque Country (07-04) – CONTADOR / Overall Classification Tour of Castilla y Leon (29-03) – CONTADOR / 4th stage Vuelta a Castilla y Leon (27-03) – CONTADOR / 1st stage (time trial) Vuelta a Castilla y Leon (24-03) – CONTADOR / Campina Ronde van het Groene Hart (23-03) – VAITKUS / 2nd stage Vuelta a Murcia (05-03) - RUBIERA / Overall Classification Tour of California (24-02) - LEIPHEIMER / 5th stage (time trial) Tour of California (22-02) - LEIPHEIMER / 2nd stage Tour of Algarve (21-02) - VAITKUS.

They even have this following note posted at the bottom of every official communication:
But despite having the defending champion, and only implications and indications of doping allegiances, they won't be riding in the Tour de France, while others who've done more still ride. Of course, I'm always against doping in sport. But will the ASO, WADA, the IOC or UCI prove either that the entire sport, all the rest of the cycling world, is truly free of dope. Is Astana doping to win this Tour de France? Did they dope to win last year's Tour? No concrete answers!

And yet you punish. What victory is this? Have you abolished dope from cycling by leaving the best rider of the day out of the biggest race? No. So, what will you achieve by this?

Asked some friends over in France, and they say "Astana will be okay for the 2009 Tour if there's no more doping scandal."!!!!!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

No mountain high enough...

No Mountain High Enough was a book I read about four years ago, written by Linda Armstrong, mother of the great Lance on the suffering she went through nursing her only child as he fought a mountainous battle to survive testicular cancer.

My mother did not suffer through the same, except on May 5 1974 she battled to get me out of her at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in the city named after that mountain you see in the picture.

Being born in Kota Kinabalu though, sure didn't give me the right to underestimate the mountain. I'd forgotten all the lessons learned from the book that Linda wrote. I left too many stones unturned in my quest as part of the National Press Club's team of nine that were charged with the duty of climbing to the summit of Malaysia's highest peak.

I'd misheard some pointers given by colleague Edmund Samunting the night before we started our climb. I'd thought I'd be able to make it to the top in my Manchester United kit and running shoes as I'd aimed to fulfill my pledge should the team deliver the Premier League and Champions League double.

Nine of us: Hillary Merrai, Voon, Haslin Ghaffar (all from Bernama), Sivanesan (Malaysia Nanban), Pascual Dino Herrera, Tony Yew (NPC), Lum (Oriental Daily), Jugjet Singh (NST) and myself, had began our climb from the Tipohon station last Saturday (June 13).

It was a seven hour journey up trecherous uphill terrain to the Laban Rata station near the peak, which gave me all sorts of pains. I was unprepared physically, although mentally I was determined to fulfill my pledge to United.
I made it through the first part, feeling I'd be okay for the 2.7km climb up to Low's Peak which would begin at 2am the next morning.

I woke up, got dressed (in my United jersey, shorts, with United scarf wrapped around my neck and running shoes). I went downstairs to gather with the rest.... And to my surprise, everyone was all wrapped in three layers of overcoats, long pants and so on.. The only extra I had was my Eupro Big Game jigging gloves. On top of that, we had no breakfast.

Our guide Primus asked me whether I was okay cause it was five degrees celsius and drizzling. I told him whether I'm okay or not, that was all I had, so I'm giving it a go.

Made it past the first kilometre, then we started climbing using ropes. The wet ropes began to soak my gloves. My hands slowly increased in level of numbness until the second section when I began to not feel my hands at all. Suddenly, I slipped and as I quickly tried to regain footing, I felt my ankle was sprained and then suddenly cramps appeared. I told Jugjet and Siva, who were behind me at that point, to just go on.

I tried to think hard but my body just could not take that much cold. So, down I headed, slowly. Entering the final part of the ropes on the way down, with a ravine just metres away, I slipped under the sprained ankle again. Which led to an amazing instant, selfless act by Primus, who jumped from above me to break my fall. He was tiny, at least 30kilogramme lighter than me. I could have easily taken both of us down the mountain.

Thankfully, although painfully, I made my way back to the Laban Rata resthouse by 4.30am. Got into bed and slept off the pain.

By 10am, Hillary, Voon and Haslin were already down after reaching the summit. Next came Lum, then the hotel manager who instructed us to gather our stuff and get out of there as it was check-out time.

Dino, Jugjet, Siva and Tony were still somewhere up there. Luckily, Maxis worked perfectly all the way up Kinabalu. After checking with our other guide Freddie Akau, we thought it better for the first group to head down, since there were reports from Primus that Jugjet and Dino were stuggling along and would take a bit longer. Okay down we go.

Problem was, I had a sprained ankle. I told myself it is about the time spent struggling and fighting pain, thus the need to reduce that. First kilometre down was about warming up. Then as Hillary and myself were side-by-side I asked him how he was. "I'm just so uncomfortable. Without sleep and my knees are aching," said Hillary. I was in pain too.

"You know what we can do?" I asked Hillary. "We can go slow, suffer the pain and get down to Tipohon at our own pace. That means about six hours of pain. If we just grit our teeth, forget about the pain and race down as quickly as possible, we maybe suffer three hours."

"Okay. Let's go," Hillary replied. By the third kilometre, we were leaving Haslin and the other two behind and had to wait at the rest stations for them. "You two downhill specialists!" quipped Haslin.

Oh, I forgot. As we approached the one kilometre mark from Laban Rata, Tony called, telling us to wait as he'll join us, while we had to arrange transport for the rest of the party who'd be coming down later.

So, Hillary and me led the way. If the first kilometre down was slow, the next five were explosive. We only took several minutes to rest. At some flat sections, I started to run. For a moment, I was one with the pain in my ankles. That was until the final 500m, when it was just unbearable. I was almost crying. I could see Tipohon gate in front of my eyes, but getting there was just excruciating. the pain started to get to me. We took about four hours to get down. God knows how I felt when I finall arrived and sat down only to find that there was no water on sale!

In all this part of the NPC Sabah Goodwill Trip was memorable. But I've got unfinished business. I know I made a grave and stupid mistake. I should have known better. So, I'm going back there soon to get to the top of that mountain.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The parting shot

Sukma is over. Funny twist to the tale as Terengganu surprised and took the overall title with 61 gold medals.
Wow! 14 golds of theirs came from canoeing, which was not contested in the Games previously. Prior to the Games I was hoping that sports fishing would make it into Sukma, at least as a demonstration sport, but it didn't happen. If Terengganu can't do it, then its never gonna happen.

Anyway, as I left Terengganu and the sweet memories behind, I couldn't help but notice signboards.. There's always something about signboards.... I always notice them.

Like this one, that leads you to KAMPUNG Batu Putih or in Portuguese "Aldeia Branca"..

It isn't on Pulau Batu Putih or Pedra Branca. This place is situated in Kuala Abang, between Rantau Abang and Dungun in Terengganu. Thank God for that.
I stopped at this shop selling rattan products as I drove along. Bought a tudung saji and a basket. Old lady manning the fort said they were made in Terengganu, while there were other stuff which weren't.

Got a call from my kid brother, asking when I'd get home. He did that twice in two days. Didn't realise why he was so worried until I got back and found his fishing rods on his desk, ready for action.
Anyway, told him the Sukma's over , so we can go catch those the water monsters anytime.

In Terengganu, it sure is over dudes.. Cause this fat lady's surely singing aloud!

She sells some nice kerepok keping, including the famed keropok sotong, plus some nice batik on the road out of Marang.

Adios Terengganu. Enjoy your holiday!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Terengganu, oh funny Terengganu...

Hahaha... I'm still in Terengganu and I've certainly had some nice laughs driving around this state covering this Sukan Malaysia.

While we've met with some interesting people, who come from interesting places, we can't help but wonder how they went about naming the places around this state.
Some people come from Kampung Pak Katak. Losely translated it's "Uncle Froggie's Village".

On the way back to Kuala Terengganu from Kuala Berang, you'll meet some people with connections with Mr. Samy Vellu. Why else would they name their place Kampung Atas Tol? errrr... I've heard of Land Below the Wind, but "Village Above the Toll Booth"? hehehe...

Somewhere between Kuala Berang and Wakaf Tapai, which itself is a funny name for a place, you'll find Sungai Tergeliat... Sprained River!!

Do visit Terengganu.. Where nature embraces heritage... or so the Visit Terengganu motto goes...