ROMPIN, Nov 3 – Pahang Canoe Sports Association (PSKP) paddler, Khairul Naim Zainal proved his status as a national athlete when he won Stage 1 of the Pahang Ocean Paddle International Challenge (POPIC) 2023 at Rantau Panjang Beach on Friday. Appearing for the first time at the international canoe championship that entered the second edition, Khairul Naim was clearly in a class of his own when he emerged as the champion of the men’s SS1 National category with a time of 1 hour 5 minutes and 56.18 seconds (s).
Khairul Naim left his two closest challengers from Johor – Montoya Raw and Mirza Adli Shaharaziz who finished the 14 kilometer (km) race in second and third place respectively.
“Thank God for the victory today (Friday). Actually there is no specific secret, but I just try to present a good fight from the beginning to the end of the race.
“In terms of challenges, I admit it is quite challenging and the distance of the race is also quite far. This is the first race in this kind of event and I learned a lot especially in controlling the canoe.
“God willing, I will continue to improve what is lacking to face the next race. I try to maintain this position as the leader until the last stage in Kuantan later,” he said in a press conference.
The women’s National SS1 category saw Johor rower Nur Atasha Nabila Saring emerge the champion with a record of 1:10:23:67s, while two Selangor representatives – Nor Ismalina Isnadi (1:37:41.24s) and Nor Amirah Nabila Amir (1:37 :58.04s) in second and third place.
“Winning today (Friday) was not as easy as expected. It was quite a challenging race, but I am happy when I was able to maintain the momentum from the beginning of the race until successfully crossing the finish line.
“I admit that the absence of the last edition’s champion, Aimi Ayumi Azwan, opens up an opportunity for me to win this category. I hope to be able to maintain this performance in the next two stages in Pekan and Kuantan,” she said.
Johor continued to dominate Rantau Panjang Beach when three of its representatives managed to emerge champions in the men’s Open Malaysia TK2 category in addition to the men’s and women’s Inter Varsity which involved a race distance of 6km.
The pairing of Ahmad Ariff Rasydan-Muhd Shahrin Haziq Mohd Shahbiree won the men’s TK2 Open national category with a time of 38:42.95s, followed by Nik Afiq Nik Mazli-Muhammad Azri Iskandar Muhamad Azrul (Pahang) and Muhammad Mustaqim Zulkarnain-Muhammad Adwa Danish Lukman (PSKP).
The men’s Inter Varsity category saw Muhammad Bahij Rabbani Mohamad Rizal-Muhammad Ridzuan Abdul Aziz emerge champions with a record of 13:30.99s, while two representatives of Sultan Idris Teaching University (UPSI) – Hassan Al Basri Ali-Muhammad Naiem Shahmi Mahusin and Mohd Danish Firdaus Mohamad -Muhammad Saiwan Saifullah Shamrin in second and third place respectively.
Nur Amirah Aqilah Abdul Kadir-Siti Nurul Masyitah Md Elias continued Johor’s dominance when they won the women’s Inter Varsity category with a time of 14:52.78s, followed by Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin (UNISZA), Rabiahtul Saba Adawiyah Rasidi-Nur Aina Natash Riduan and another Johor representative, Nur Syahirah Fuad-Murni Mohd Hidayat.
The women’s TK2 Malaysian Open category saw the UNISZA pair, Dayang Nur Hanisah Awang Ali-Siti Aisyah Norazhar create a surprise when they emerged as champions with a record of 43:58.02s, followed by Nor Azita Ibrahim-Nursaibah Syahida Ibrahim (RMP Paddlers) and Nur Dayana Saffiyah Mohd Nazri-Shini Abdullah (Viking UiTM).
Stage 2 is scheduled to take place at Pantai Lagenda, Pekan tomorrow, before POPIC 2023 featuring nearly 150 participants from home and abroad draws its curtain at Pantai Teluk Cempedak, Kuantan on Sunday.
Present to withness the Stage 1 race was Pahang Unity, Tourism and Culture Committee chairman, Leong Yu Man (pic below) who later showed her canoeing skill and braced the wave.