MALAYSIA has consistently produced outstanding athletes who dominated their sport at the SEA Games, since the nation began taking part in the very first edition in 1959. A total of 1,303 gold medals have been won by Malaysian athletes so far.
Here are five of the greatest Malaysian athletes at the SEA Games:
Marina Chin (1971 to 1979, 7 golds, 1 silver)
Malaysia's Track Queen in the 1970s, Marina Chin was equally adept at sprinting and hurdling, and captured the nation's hearts with her graceful exploits on the track.
The former beauty queen most memorably captured two gold medals in the 100m and 200m hurdles events when Malaysia hosted the 1977 Games.
Today, Chin continues her passion for sports, as principal of Bukit Jalil Sports School, in charge of the next-generation of Malaysian athletes.
Nurul Huda Abdullah (1983 to 1989, 22 golds, 4 silvers, 1 bronze)
In the 1980s, Nurul Huda Abdullah (born Chng Su-Lin) broke through the dominance of Singapore women's swimmers to create history as the Malaysian athlete who won the most golds at the SEA Games.
And she did it in just three SEA Games editions, beginning her run in 1985 with seven golds, one silver and one bronze; taking another seven golds and one silver in 1987; and finally finishing her career in style at the 1989 Kuala Lumpur Games with eight golds and two silvers.
Nurul also won two Asian Games silver medals in Seoul in 1986. She became the first Malaysian to be awarded an IOC Trophy from the International Olympic Committee in 1987, and was inducted into the Olympic Council of Malaysia Hall of Fame in 2004.
Shalin Zulkifli (1994 to 2019, 20 golds, 8 silvers, 5 bronzes)
The pint-sized Shalin Zulkifli was an unstoppable force of nature on the bowling lanes, showing astonishing consistency and coolness under pressure to dominate women's bowling in the region for more than 20 years.
By far the most successful bowler at the SEA Games with 20 gold medals, Shalin rose to become the Asian No.1 female bowler at numerous points in her career. Her most memorable Games came in 1999 in Brunei, when she won five of the six golds on offer in the women's competition (doubles, trios, team, all events and Masters), only missing out on the singles gold.
Shalin became the first female champion at the World Tenpin Masters when women's events were first introduced in 2001. For her wondrous feats, she was inducted into the International Bowling Hall of Fame in 2004.
Daniel Bego (2003 to 2019, 11 golds, 6 silvers, 4 bronzes)
From age 14, Daniel Bego has carried the hopes of swimming golds for Malaysia. And he did not disappoint as he won consistently in the 2000s, culminating in a stellar outing in the Laos capital of Vientiane in 2009, when he won five golds and one bronze.
More impressively, the Kuching native showed tremendous heart to make a stirring comeback from a serious shoulder injury in 2011. Despite being written off by many, he managed to win his 11th and final gold medal in the 400m freestyle at the 2013 Naypyidaw Games.
Bego continued to represent Malaysia at the Games until the most recent edition in 2019. From young upstart to elder statesman, he has been an exemplary athlete for the country at the SEA Games.
Pandelela Rinong (2007 to now, 8 golds, 1 silver)
The first Malaysia female athlete to win an Olympic medal in 2012, Pandelela Rinong has been dominating the 10m platform diving competitions at the SEA Games for the past 15 years.
While her SEA Games exploits may pale in comparison to her other achievements (first Malaysian to win a medal at the world championships, first Malaysian to win a Commonwealth Games aquatics gold), they are nonetheless bedrocks for excellences for future divers to emulate.
Although her one-time synchronised platform teammate Leong Mun Yee has won more golds (17) at the Games, the 29-year-old still has time to add to her tally, as she continues to break new grounds for Malaysia in her sport.
Special mention: Nicol David (1999 to 2001, 4 golds)
Four SEA Games golds may not seem many compared to others, but they are the launching pad for the spectacular career of squash star Nicol David, arguably Malaysia's greatest athlete.
The eight-time world champion and seven-time Asian Games gold medallist began her rise to the top of her sport when she won the women's singles and team events in both the 1999 and 2001 SEA Games.
As she began winning the world-class squash events with regularity, she stopped participating at the Games, but still served as a mentor for the Malaysian contingent at the 2019 edition.