SHAH ALAM, 21 Sept 98 (Bernama):
BY Mohamad Nasir Yusoff
HAS SAPOK ANY SECRETS THAT WON HIM THE GOLD?
What is Sapok Biki's secret that helped him win the gold medal in the 48kg category at the 16th Commonwealth Games boxing event yesterday?
This appeared to be the question in the minds of many Malaysians amid the endless national joy generated by the young boxer's golden success.
Really, has Sapok a secret?
The ever-smiling 24-year-old army commando, flanked by his proud father Biki Kinyan and adoring mother Limah Jamba, continued to smile when asked his secret after his memorable win.
However, unknown to Sapok, his father Biki had revealed his secret.
"Its normal for an Iban warrior to wear the 'tariang buntat'..." Biki, 47, said, citing a traditional Ibanese 'tangkal' or talisman made of wild boar's canine (taring babi tunggal) worn by past warriors.
Biki said the talisman, worn around the waist, was believed to have the power to boost the fearless spirit of the wearer.
Sapok's ancestors, the Ibans of Simunjan, Sarawak, were well known for their bravery and one of their slogans was (in Ibanese) "Agi Hidup Agi Ngelaban" which translates "Fight As Long As Alive".
Sapok was not telling whether he wore the talisman during the fight, but what was clear was that his fight was a really tactical one as evident in his every calculated move in the ring.
"No I don't have any secrets... but I have to admit that I cheated on my coach last night," he said, apologising to Thai coach Adun Pasu Mokhtar who spent sleepless nights after his four Malaysian boxers made it into the quaterfinals.
Sapok said despite being repeatedly asked by Adun Pasu to watch and study the video tape of his previous opponent, Kenyan Mosses Kinyua, he did not watch it.
"I did not watch the tape because I was afraid it could adversely affect my performance in the ring ... especially mentally, since Kinyua was known for his quick punches," he said. Instead Sapok listened to soft relaxing music the night before the big fight.
"Even a seasoned campaigner would have felt the pressure, the great responsibility of achieving nothing less than a gold for his country," he said knowing well that he could not afford to let Malaysia down. And, let Malaysia down he did not when he beat Kinyua by a convincing 19-13 on points.
Inspired by the cheering demanding local crowd, who chanted "Sapok, Sapok" and "Sapok Boleh, Malaysia Boleh!" all the way from the first bell, he fought the way he always does and was not the slightest taken in by Kinyua's play.
"Not knowing his play, and that of all my other opponents, enables me to fight exactly the way coach Adun Pasu would direct me to," he said stressing that he was never influenced by stories of his opponent's abilities and capabilities.
Another fact Sapok failed to mention was the lesson he had learned from Adnan Yusoh's 15-16 loss to Tanzanian Micheal Yomba Yomba in the semis of the 54kg category.
Adnan had admitted that when he was leading by several points at the start of the fourth of the two-minute rounds he was a bit over confident and let his guard down and Yomba Yomba took advantage of this.
SoSapok decided to fight, and fight, to the last bell.
Adun Pasu, a Thai Muslim, also provided some spiritual strength, spending some time performing the "solat hajat". The coach also asked his mother in Pattani, Southern Thailand to pray for his charges' success.
"I called my mother earlier in the morning to request her to recite the versus from the Holy Quran all afternoon when Sapok was doing his best in the ring," said the sports science degree holder who have churned out many Thai international champions.
Being the brave tactical young man that he is, who fought not only with his might but also with his mind, the gold could well be Sapok's afterall,even without any secrets attached to it.