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Naharudin and Zaira (Malaysia) eye record-breaking lifts

One is a previous Games medallist. The other is making her debut.

The two weightlifters, Naharudin Mahayudin and Zaira Zakaria, have set a common goal at the Laos SEA Games – to break their own national records in the men’s 62kg and women’s 48kg events respectively.

The 25-year-old Naharudin had defied the odds to win a bronze medal in his Games debut two years ago at Korat.

This time, though, he has his reservation over repeating that feat.

“The field will be tougher this time around. My competitors include an Olympic Games medallist and world class lifters from Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia. It will be tough to win even a medal,” said Naharudin.

“Their presence, however, will certainly push me to improve on my personal best in this event. For now, that is my main goal,” he said.

His personal best of 126kg in snatch is the national record. His best lift in clean and jerk is 151kg.

Naharudin said he drew inspiration from Bulgarian-born Turk Naim Suleymanoglu (formerly known as Naim Suleimanov) in his pursuit of excellence.

Suleymanoglu, nicknamed “the pocket Hercules”, has won three Olympic gold medals, seven world titles, six European crowns and shattered 46 world records.

“I just love his style. He is so cool and composed. He is stocky in stature but his lift is so perfect. When I took up weightlifting at the age of 15, he was my idol,” added Naharudin.

In the women’s scene, the 22-year-old Zaira is growing to be an icon in her own right since making a breakthrough at the Malaysian Games in Terengganu last year.

And after a recent two-month stint in China, Zaira is confident she can break her own national record at the Games in the 48kg category.

Her total best lift is 165kg (snatch 72kg, clean and jerk 93kg).

“This is my first SEA Games. It will be a great opportunity to know where I stand among some of the world class lifters in my category,” said Zaira. “The stint in China was great for me. There was not much distraction and I was able to focus on perfecting my lift.

“It will be difficult to get my hands on a medal but I think it is possible to improve on my personal best. That will be my goal,” added the Kedah lass.

As for Malaysia’s campaign at the Games, the best prospect for a medal is seasoned campaigner Amirul Hamizan Ibrahim in the 56kg category.

In Korat two years ago, Malaysia also won a silver medal through Che Mohd Azrol Che Mat in the men’s over 105kg but Azrol did not make the team this year.