Nur Suryani: From Lahat to the London Olympics

By Mariam Mokhtar

London Olympics 2012 - shooting

Nur Suryani Mohamad Taibi

Nur Suryani Mohamad Taibi, originally from Manjoi, has come a long way from the shooting range in Lahat, to represent Malaysia at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Away from the shooting range, the image of a serious person, deep in concentration, staring down the sights of a rifle, gives way to a young woman who is affable, accommodating, down-to-earth, with a delightful sense of humour.

When the Ipoh Echo caught up with 29-year-old Nur Suryani, she was up-beat about her debut at the Olympics: “When I first started shooting, all I wanted was to see how far I could progress. But to make it to the Olympics, was a dream come true.”

“A few days after tests confirmed my pregnancy, I found that I had qualified for the Olympic Games. So, there was a double celebration.”

Her first shooting event, on the day after the Olympics opening ceremony, was tough as she concedes: “I was up against the best in the world. To represent my country is a once in a lifetime achievement. Although I did not make it to the finals, I tried my best. I am satisfied with my performance. I hope to inspire other women in Malaysia.”

Nur Suryani who is 47th in the world ranking for the 10-metre air rifle event, is also a Commonwealth Games gold medallist. She has a dizzying array of medals from various international shooting events, like the Guangzhou Asian Games and the World Cup in Sydney.

In November 2011, she won two gold medals in the Southeast Asian Games in the 10-metre air rifle and 50-metre three position rifle. She qualified in both these disciplines, for the 2012 Olympics, at the Asian Championships in Doha, Qatar two months later. Although her preferred event is the 50m rifle, the growth of her belly as her pregnancy advanced, made it difficult to shoot in the prone position.

Nur Suryani’s road to success was not without controversy. Two months after qualifying, she was strongly urged to reconsider her Olympic participation. Some believed that her pregnancy would affect her performance. Others said she was selfish and that she was only endangering the health of her baby and herself.

Her detractors were silenced when doctors certified that she was fit to travel and to participate in the games. “I have to ignore the critics as I must be focused in what I do. I have worked hard to get where I am. On the whole, people have been most supportive.”

Her dedication to the sport is endorsed by her manager, Muzli Mustakim. “Nur Suryani is very disciplined. She is a level-headed person and in spite of her condition, I am extremely pleased with her performance,” said Muzli, who is also the honorary executive assistant secretary of the National Shooting Association of Malaysia.

Nur Suryani’s husband accompanied her to London but she was disappointed that her father could not come. “I was fifteen when, with the encouragement of my father, I took up shooting. He said, “Kalau nak bergaya, buat rifle; kalau nak relax dan senang, tembak guna pistol”. (If you want to be stylish, choose the rifle; if you want something more relaxing and easy, choose the pistol.) “I was only a youngster and I wanted to ‘bergaya’ – so I took up the rifle.”

Her participation has caused a stir in the Olympics village with an unprecedented number of requests for interview, from the foreign media. “I am surprised by the publicity. I think I might have made history as the most pregnant woman to compete in the history of the Games”.

Nur Suryani is the older of two girls, and attended the primary school Sekolah Manjoi-1. Her secondary school was the Sekolah Dr Megat Khas, the former Labrooy school. “I learnt at the Perak Shooting Association, near Bradken, in Lahat. I now train at the shooting range in Subang.”

Nur Suryani is aware that she is a role model for women. “If you have confidence and the belief in yourself, you can do anything”, she said. Her advice to school children with an interest in shooting, was to join the Police Cadets.

She portrays herself as a simple and easy person who can get along with most people: “But I choose my friends carefully.”

Most of her Olympic gear (rifle, shooting jacket, spotting scope, pellets) was funded by the Malaysian government. Her shooting jacket, which was sourced overseas, cost a whopping RM2,800.

Swimming forms part of her exercise regime. “Most people’s hearts beat at 80 beats per minute. Athletes aim for 50-60 beats per minute. I shoot in between the beats. So it is important I keep fit. “I love food. If I go to the gym, I may burn 2,000 calories but then consume 5,000 calories of food afterwards. That is why I prefer swimming to the gym.

She also mentioned the downside of swimming. “I used to swim daily until my bump got bigger. Now I garden. Although the water makes it easier to float, I feel like a Telly Tubby when I put on a swimsuit!” She maintains that she would resume shooting after childbirth.

“Definitely, I will carry on. I want to do my best to qualify for the next Olympics.”

Now that the Olympics is over, Nur Suryani’s next challenge, is that of naming her baby.

Ipoh Echo would like to congratulate Nur Suryani on her Olympic participation and wish her well with her first baby, a girl.

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One thought on “Nur Suryani: From Lahat to the London Olympics

  1. Though she may not qualify for the event proper, she has caused a stir with the pregnancy. That alone she have achieved a lot for women. Congrats and am surprised she is from Ipoh. Well done.
    To Mariam a good article. An ardent fan of your writings. Keep up.

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