When intellectually disabled long jumper Suhairi Suhani reached the giddy heights of world No. 8 in 2017, his coach Muhamad Hosni felt the most satisfied he has ever been in his career.
Suhairi achieved that feat on the back of reaching the T20 final of the 2016 Rio Paralympics and finishing seventh at the World Para Athletics Championships a year later in London.
In a phone interview with The New Paper yesterday, Hosni – who is in Brisbane, Australia, for the ongoing Inas (International Federation for Athletes with Intellectual Impairments) Global Games – said: “It is very satisfying and rewarding to be able to see my charges win at meets, glowing after achieving something.
“It is priceless… I feel I’m blessed to be able to coach them.”
Hosni, who is working with the intellectually impaired at the Singapore Disability Sports Council (SDSC), started coaching Suhairi at the Special Olympics in 2013 before continuing their working relationship at SDSC a year later.
The 47-year-old’s efforts were recognised yesterday when he was named among 10 recipients of the Singapore Coach Medallion, presented by Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu at the third CoachSG Conference at the Republic Polytechnic.
Hosni, who missed the ceremony because of the Brisbane meet, added that he was tremendously pleased and thankful for the award.
“I am happy and humbled to receive such a prestigious award,” said Hosni, who also coaches NUS High School of Mathematics and Science, St Andrew’s Junior College and Ngee Ann Polytechnic.
“I would like to thank my family for their support, my coaching partner C. Veeramani (former national middle-distance runner), my junior coaches, my athletes, Special Olympics, SDSC and fellow coaches.”
The former national sprinter admitted that he found coaching the intellectually disabled tough at the beginning, as communication was difficult.
“When working with para-athletes, you have go back to basics. I had to first learn about the particular individual’s disability and the challenges facing him,” he said.
“After that, it is about disseminating that information simply. I have to break down explanations and repeat these bite-sized information regularly, so that my athletes are able to internalise these instructions.
“In the initial period, it was difficult. But, slowly, I understood their difficulties and kept at it. It takes a lot of patience, but I also remind myself to put myself in their shoes.
“As a former athlete myself, I have had expectations of my coaches and also remember what I appreciated of them… So I try to give my athletes what I believe they expect of me.”
Today, Suhairi will compete in the T20 long jump final in Brisbane, after the 22-year-old finished ninth in the heats with an effort of 5.74 metres.
Due to a leg injury, the 2017 Sports Excellence Scholarship recipient is off his personal best of 6.69m, which he set in Rio.
Also competing today are some of Hosni’s other disciples such as Siti Nurhayati, 17, and Rozana Abdullah, 18, who are taking part in the women’s T20 400m heats.
Nur Ariq Yaakub, 16, clocked 56.94sec to finish 22nd in the men’s T20 400m yesterday.
The eight-day meet ends on Saturday.
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