SEA Games families: Under pressure, but Insyirah ready to smash her own way to success
The 29th SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur will be a family affair for six members of the Team Singapore contingent competing in the regional event. Hailing from football, silat, badminton, and fencing, the young athletes will be following the footsteps of their parents, who also competed and won honours for Singapore at previous editions of the SEA Games. In a four-part series ahead of the Kuala Lumpur Games, up-and-coming young footballers Irfan and Ikhsan Fandi, Sheik Farhan and Ferdous, Nur Insyirah and Nicole Wong tell TODAY what it is like growing up and playing the sport as children of Singapore’s sports personalities, how they hope to emulate their parents’ successes, and eventually make a name for themselves.
SINGAPORE – His daughter picked up badminton because of his influence, but former national shuttler Hamid Khan does not get to watch her compete these days.
“She doesn’t want me to be around!” he told TODAY, a tinge of resignation in his chuckle. “This is the pressure she’s carrying, but to me, she has no choice – you are my daughter and you have to make the best out of it.
“I want her to play her best and if my presence affects her, then so be it, I will stay away.”
It is pressure that Nur Insyirah Khan, who turns 16 this September, has been learning to deal with, after chosing to follow in the footsteps of her father, an Olympian who represented Singapore at the 1992 Games in Barcelona.
She was not “keen at all” when she picked up a racquet at five, recalled Hamid. But it all changed after she suffered a heavy defeat in a competition near the end of Primary One.
“After that, I just wanted to train even harder as I felt like I wanted to achieve something out of badminton,” said Insyirah.
“That’s why I have been training until now. I love the fun and challenge on court, playing with other people, exposing myself to different playing styles and further improving my skills.”
Hamid, who has two other children, both sons – Irsyad, 23 and Imran, 21 - insisted that he never pushed his daughter in the sport.
“I just left it to her,” he said.
“All my three kids, I wanted them to play badminton, to indulge in sports, because it made me what I am now – I don’t believe in total (focus on) academics.”
Under the tutelage of her father, who coached her until she was 12, Insyirah has made steady progress.
After finishing primary school, she enrolled in the Singapore Sports School to continue her badminton development.
While she has travelled to Indonesia and Vietnam for tournaments, Insyirah will compete for the first time in Malaysia later this month when she makes her SEA Games debut.
She is the youngest member of Singapore’s 19-strong badminton contingent heading up to Kuala Lumpur, and she will compete in the women’s team event.
“It will be my biggest competition so far,” she said. “I hope that the team will achieve at least a medal. As for myself, I hope to learn from my seniors and gain exposure from my first SEA Games.”
Hamid, who competed at six consecutive SEA Games from 1983 to 1993 and brought back a team bronze each time execpt for the 1987 edition in Jakarta, is not about to put pressure on Insyirah at her first senior-level competition.
“I told her to go there and feel the atmosphere, get the experience,” he said. “Look forward to it and just do your best.”
Turning to her, he laughed and added: “You are playing your first SEA Games at 16 (whereas) I played mine at 17, so you’re better than me!”
Hamid is hopeful that his children will better his achievements one day.
“I’ve played in the Olympics, so I want them to play in the Olympics – and get something, a medal,” he said.
“Money can’t buy the experience (of going to the Olympics). If she wants to do that, we will support her as much as possible.”
Hamid, who does both school and private coaching, watches and analyses videos of Insyirah’s performances and does his best to guide her.
Ultimately, Hamid just wants his daughter to give her all whenever she takes to the court.
“When you’re somebody’s daughter, definitely there’ll be added pressure,” he said.
“People will talk when she loses – ‘Hamid Khan’s daughter is like that?’
“But I just told her to enjoy her game – the important thing is to train hard and do your best, that’s all I hope for.
“Winning is always a bonus… if you play well, even if you lose, I will congratulate her.”