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Living the dream

26 May, 2015   Nicolette Mok

Our Sporting Hero. My Neighbour. Aizat Jufrie.

Touching on topics such as the GCE “A” Levels and how he deals with successful older siblings, 19-year-old Aizat Jufrie is, like many others his age, full of big plans for the future.

However, while he strikes one as an everyday schoolboy with big aspirations, Aizat stands out on one particular aspect, setting him apart from the rest: he is already living his dream.

Thrust into the international spotlight with a bronze medal at last year’s Commonwealth Invitational Gymnastics, where he impressed the world in the individual vault event, it would appear that Aizat has circumvented the typical route that most Singaporean athletes follow.

The rising talent has, in addition to his stellar performance at the aforementioned meet, competed at last year’s World Artistic Gymnastics Championships and Artistic Gymnastics World Challenge Cup, as well as the elite multi-sport Asian and Commonwealth Games. Remarkably, he had even qualified for the finals at the latter Games, finishing an overall sixth in the vault event.

Yet, a spot at the biannual SEA Games, a kind of rite of passage young local athletes typically go through before graduating to higher-level meets, has eluded Aizat so far.

“This is my first SEA Games. I was too young for the Palembang one in 2011, and the [2013] one in Myanmar didn’t feature gymnastics. So I missed chance after chance,” the Raffles Institution student, who deferred his “A” Levels just for the upcoming Games, explained.

Growing up fascinated by what his older siblings picked up during their gymnastics lessons, Aizat, who was then in primary school, wasted no time following in their footsteps.

He credited much of his current success to the both of them. Sharing his experiences growing up with an older sister and brother, Aizat said: “Their achievements would always overshadow mine. I was faced with expectations to perform as well as they did, but it’s mostly healthy competition, to be better than they are.”

“Both of them went through what I’m going through, so every time I feel down or have problems, they will motivate me. I know that whatever I’m doing, I have them to back me up. Even against all odds, they will be there for me.”

Aizat can surely look forward to sound advice from his siblings come June this year, when the SEA Games rolls around. In fact, his sister Nur Atikah Nabilah is, notably, a former national gymnast with a wealth of Games experience and multiple gold medals to her name.

Expressing his enthusiasm at finally being able to participate in the SEA Games, he remarked: “Fortunately, my first SEA Games will be in Singapore [and] I’m quite excited for it, because having my first Games on home ground will be a very different experience. I feel really anxious, but motivated and excited [at the same time], to represent Singapore on home ground.”

“In the long run, ultimately, I hope to represent Singapore at the Olympics as well. That is every athlete’s dream,” he added.

Competitions and glory aside, the committed athlete also has huge ambitions for the future of his sport, despite his young age. Apart from doing well for his “A” Levels, Aizat also hopes to encourage subsequent generations of gymnasts with his successes.

“Being the youngest on the national gymnastics team and achieving as much as the rest have achieved will motivate the younger kids. As of now, gymnastics is really growing in Singapore, and I hope that my performance and achievements will help attract others to the sport and, at the same time, motivate those already in the sport to achieve greater things than I have,” he asserted.

Keep an eye out for Aizat and the rest of the Singapore team during the 28th SEA Games gymnastics competition, running from June 6th to 14th at Bishan Sports Hall.