Friday, September 01, 2006

The Penang Straits Swim

Bernama reported 16-year-old Ahmad Shauqie Abdul Aziz, a student from Sekolah Menengah Abdul Aziz in Perak, swam 10 km across the Penang Strait in three hours 10 minutes. And he did it without a cage. Apparently, five years ago, marathon swimmer Datuk Abdul Malek Mydin did the same thing, but used a cage.

Why cage? Are there sharks in the Penang Straits?

Ahmad Shauqie did it all in the spirit of Malaysia Boleh, apart from wanting to get into the Malaysia Book of Records for being the youngest person to swim across the Straits solo without using a cage. His brother and personal trainer, Azmin, accompanied him in a boat to ensure his safety.

Penangites would be proud to know that Ahmad Shauqie was born in Penang. Shauqie said that he was proud for having succeeded in setting a record as the youngest swimmer to have swim across the Straits.

His proud father, Abdul Aziz, said Shauqie had undergone eight months of training by swimming from Pulau Pangkor to Lumut before attempting the feat.

He said: "I'm thankful to Allah that Shauqie clocked 40 minutes faster than the time expected of him. He only ate six bananas during the swim."

I congratulate Ahmad Shauqie for his feat, but I believe many others had done it eons before. I don’t want to disappoint him about his claim to being the first youngest to swim that leg, though he can make a claim for a place in the Malaysia Book of Records, because in those days no record was taken for the following reason.

Now I kid you not, but say, if one were to go through the Penang newspapers reports of the 1950’s, one would find that there was a school in Penang called the Anglo-Chinese School (ACS), which I believed became the Methodist Boys’ School after Merdeka, which was renowned for its swimming prowess.

Those newspapers reports should be able to show that the ACS had annual cross-Penang Straits swim where several dozens, if not hundreds of their students and teachers took the plunge from Butterworth and swam across to, I was told by an old timer, the Chinese Swimming Club in Tanjung Tokong.

Then no sophisticated cage existed, nor bananas eaten. It was just an annual school swim by ACS students with strong encouragement from and training by teachers who themselves were powerful swimming instructors - most instructed at the Chinese Swimming Club.

Some of the students were very very young, studying in the old Form III's to Form V's. Using my own age just as a rouge gauge, I was in the equivalent of Form V at 16, so I would surmise those swimmers must have been very young.

But then, that was in the 1950’s and probably early 1960’s, so those were events in the last century. Certainly Ahmad Shauqie’s record is for this new century. It is a proud achievement by any measure, and we Penangites specially rejoice in his swimming prowess, particularly in this 49th Merdeka celebration. Syabas, anak PP!

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