Selangor Journal
National sprinter Muhammad Azeem Mohd Fahmi. — Picture by BERNAMA TV

False starts became a fear tough to overcome for 100m bronze medallist Azeem

HANGZHOU, Oct 1 — After a costly false start in his SEA Games debut in Hanoi last year, Malaysian sprint demon Muhammad Azeem Mohd Fahmi found it tough to overcome the fear of repeating the same mistake in major competitions.

The 19-year-old, who ended Malaysia’s 41-year wait for an Asian Games medal in the men’s 100m dash by bagging a bronze last night, admitted he was always worried about committing false starts, which leads to instant disqualification in his races.

It constantly affected his reaction to the gun, with Muhammad Azeem posting the slowest time among the first-round heat winners in Hangzhou Olympic Stadium and a reaction time of 0.178s in heat 3.

However, the United States-based runner improved his reaction time in the semi-final to 0.147s, while in the final, he reacted in 0.149s to secure bronze with a timing of 10.11s, a whisker away from his national record of 10.09s. It was also his first medal in any international competition.

China’s Xie Zhenye, who equaled his personal best of 9.97s to claim gold reacted in 0.148s, while Thailand’s silver medalist Puripol Boonson (10.02s) reacted in 0.162s after his compatriot Soraoat Dapbang was earlier disqualified for a false start.

“(False start) was what I feared most. I became more careful at the starting block, especially in major meets, as the sensor is quite sensitive.

“That is why my coach (Ken Harnden) and I have been working for months before this, and Alhamdulillah, (my) reaction time in the final was very encouraging; it helped me maintain my momentum.

Muhammad Azeem admitted the final 20m was always his Achilles heel, adding that in the final, his posturing went slightly wrong in that stretch.

“It is okay; at least we know what we have to work on after this, InsyaAllah looking forward to qualifying for the Paris 2024 Olympics,” he said.

Muhammad Azeem’s achievement ended the country’s 41-year wait for a podium finish in the blue ribbon event since Datuk Rabuan Pit claimed gold in the 1982 edition in New Delhi, India.

— Bernama

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