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Gold for contingent who missed their earlier flight
Published on: Saturday, March 02, 2024
By: Bernama
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Gold for contingent who missed their earlier flight
Leonel (centre) shows his gold medal flanked by Valerie (right) and Safuan.
Kuala Lumpur: A taekwondo contingent from Sabah’s interior that nearly missed out on competing at an international competition in the nation’s capital on Thursday won a gold medal due to the extraordinary kindness of fellow Malaysians who helped raise funds for their flight tickets.

The success of winning a gold at the 2024 Hwarang Warrior International Championship on Friday will serve as sweet memory for the Sabah Taekwon-do Choi Jung Hwa Association after they missed their original flight from Sandakan to Kuala Lumpur on Thursday.

Team manager Valerie Grace Peter Sompunodo said they nearly had to forget about competing in the tournament but with the help of fellow Malaysians, they were able to raise RM18,000 in four hours and purchase new tickets to Kuala Lumpur.

Elaborating further on the episode, Valerie said they were supposed to board a flight from Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan at 9.30am on Feb 28 but due to a delay in the flight schedule, they arrived in Sandakan later than planned.

This resulted in them missing their next flight to Kuala Lumpur and left them stranded for several hours at Sandakan Airport.

“I had searched for the cheapest flight ticket since last year for this competition and got them for RM299. It was all from the parents’ own pocket. So when we missed our flight we were left frustrated and intended to withdraw from the competition.

“However, when we arrived in Kota Kinabalu (Feb 28) we did not expect there would be kind-hearted people through the Facebook account Riniejene Anthony who helped raise funds on social media and assisted in purchasing the new tickets  the following day (Feb 29),” she said.

Meanwhile, Leonel Bellvin, 12, who won the gold medal in the male 38-45kg kyorugi 11-12 age category, said his victory was all the more meaningful as he only began training with the team last year.

“This is also a present for my 12th birthday on May 7 and I want to win more medals to make Sabah, my school and parents proud,” said the Dusun pupil of SK Popok, Kota Marudu.

Besides Leonell, four other participants who missed the flight were Evan Filemon, 15, Deqqusyairi Jaafar, 15, Darren Michael Daholok @ Peter, 16, and Erwin Daymiean Junaidi, 15, all students of SMK Bongkol, Pitas.

Meanwhile, the association’s coach, Safuan Fathy Amran, 33, said he was moved by the effort and eagerness of those who helped.

He said his team went through many challenges to prepare for the tournament. These included a lack of facilities and suitable location to train as his charges came from Kota Marudu and Pitas and most of them were poor.

According to Safuan, the distance between the two districts is roughly 50 kilometres making it difficult for him to pick a suitable place for training.

“I thought of only one thing… I did not want the parents to be disappointed because some of them cried after they were informed that we had missed the flight. I was the saddest and most disappointed but with this gold medal, it is like a motivation to future participants. Thank you fellow Malaysians,” he said. 

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