23 year old Maziah Mahusin is one of the most prominent female athletes in Brunei. Named best female athlete in the national competition in 2009 and 2011, the track and field runner has has the honour of representing her country at the 2012 London Olympic Games and the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.
Did you know that Maziah has already set two new national records at a young age? During the 2010 Youth Olympic Games, she broke the national record for the 400m hurdles event. At the Olympic Games in London, she smashed the 400m track and field record with a time of 59.82 seconds.
And she’s not done yet. Maziah is gunning to take more medals and break records at the upcoming AUG and the 2017 SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur. Learn more about Brunei’s record-breaker in our short profile article below, and find out how to catch her in action during the games!
From Hockey to Running: Maziah’s route to the Olympics
Active in sports since her primary school days, Maziah was already part of the Brunei national hockey team at the tender age of 14.
Her foray into athletics came by chance at a sports day event, where she won an 800m track and field race and was spotted by the national athletic team. Before long, she was asked by the athletic team’s coaches to give athletics a try.
Although her first event for the Brunei athletics team at the Teluk Danga Games in Johor did not yield any medals, it allowed her to improve her timing for the 800m race.
From then on, Maziah took to challenge and push herself to do better in athletics. From 2008 to 2010, she represented her country as a 400m hurdler and participated at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in Singapore, where she set a new national record for that athletics category.
However, she was forced to stop doing hurdles after the Youth Olympics due to a permanent injury to her achilles tendon. Although upset by the setback, the Bruneian switched to the 200m and 400m track and field events in order to continue competing for her country.
The change in events did not hinder Maziah’s career. Instead, she found herself representing her country in the 400m events at the 2012 Olympic Games in London and the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
She first came to the attention of the international media at the London Games as she was the first woman athlete from the sultanate to compete at the Olympic Games. To top that off, she was selected as the flag bearer for Brunei during the Opening Ceremony.
Competing in front of 80,000 spectators can be a daunting moment especially for an athlete who has never competed in the Olympics, and Maziah even thought about doing a false start during her qualifying heats.
Nevertheless, the runner concentrated her mind for the task at hand and finished her heat in sixth position with a time of 59.28 seconds. Despite not qualifying for the semi-finals, she broke the 19 year old Brunei national record in the 400m event.
Maziah lists the record-breaking performance – which was noted by television commentators during the “live” telecast of the heats – as her greatest achievement in her career so far. “Representing Brunei at the Olympics, especially being the country’s first female Olympian, is already a gold medal for me,” she said.
Overcoming challenges along the way
Being one of the few professional women athletes in Brunei, Maziah has faced many challenges such as societal pressure, fears and doubts about continuing a career in running, and egos in the sporting world.
Failure, and the response to it, has often been one of the biggest challenges for athletes. Maziah herself has experienced failure many times during the course of her career and often felt the urge to give up.
Nevertheless, the Brunei athlete persevered and chose to strive to be at her best despite the difficulties she faced. “I gain strength, courage and confidence by experience that I have been through. I don’t expect to achieve perfection, but I do want to perform at a higher level and win medals. “
She added: “Feeling pressure is normal for me. But I won’t let it control my mind. I just have to stay focused on my goals and the competitions.”
Many people in Asia write off sports as a viable career because of the much-held belief that one cannot gain much from being an athlete.
Maziah, however, challenges this assumption. “It is common to say that sports cannot give you future, but what they don’t know is that sports changed my life. Sports taught me a lot of valuable life lessons on the long run. I learnt a lot through athletics – I also met new athletes friends from different countries and we share our stories”.
Indeed, being at international tournaments such as the Olympics gave Maziah the opportunity to meet athletes such as Sanya Richards-Ross, Michael Phelps, Oscar Pistorius, Mo Farah, Tyson Gay, Johan Blake, Allyson Felix and Jessica Ennis.
As one of a handful of professional women athletes in Brunei, Maziah also has to deal the many challenges that women face in Brunei, such as the lack of commitment that many budding athletes have towards a career in sports.
“Many athletes, especially women, either ease up or give up when they arrive at a point at which it is no longer fun, because it is too hard.”
Also, the 2012 London Olympian hopes that more can be done to support women athletes in the sultanate.
Her advice to young women athletes? Fight their fears of failing and move forward. “Just go for it! Don’t be afraid to fail, because despite experiencing loses, failures, mistakes and disappointments, that will just make you strong.”
“Anyone can quit” she added. “But have faith, hang in there, stay in touch with your dreams and commitment. Remember that your resources are always far deeper and far greater that you ever imagine them to be!”
AUG 2016 and beyond
An undergraduate student in Computer Science, Maziah is in the final year of her degree course and expects to graduate at the end of the year.
The former Olympian will not head to this year’s Olympics due to changes in the qualification criteria. While she is disappointed that she will not be able to go to Rio, she is keeping a positive mindset ahead of the next major competition, the 18th AUG in Singapore.
In July 2016, Maziah will participate in the AUG 200m track and field event and hopes to break the national record that was set by Alinawati Ali Akbar at the 2001 SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur. Beyond that, Maziah is aiming to win a medal for Brunei at the upcoming 2017 SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur.
Catch Maziah in action on the tracks at the Choa Chu Kang Stadium in July, and follow this amazing athlete at her Instagram account @maziahmahusin.