1. First Formula One driver.
Formula One hopeful Alex Yoong finally got his chance when he was announced as Minardi’s driver for the 2001 season. Backed by local lottery company Magnum, Alex made his debut at the Italian Grand Prix, Monza, making him the first Malaysian to ever grace a racing seat in the prestigious Formula One.
Alex remained Minardi’s driver for the rest of the 2001 season and had a contract extension which would see him in the team’s outfit for the entire 2002 season as well.
In his first race of the 2002 season, Alex managed his best ever finish in 7th place. After that however, the races became more difficult for Alex to cope with.
The instance Alex was announced as a Formula One driver will remain in Malaysian history books for a long time to come. In his time with Formula One he’ competed in 18 Grand Prix’s with his best finish being that 7th place.
2. Malaysian football team qualifies for the Olympic Games.
Some say that Malaysian football will never again reach its peak like it did back in the day when players like Mokhtar Dahari, Soh Chin Aun and Santokh Singh took to the fields.
But what made it all more impressive was their qualification for the 1972 Olympics in Munich. In managing to do so, the Malaysian football team defeated the likes of Japan, Taiwan, Philippines and South Korea along their way to qualification.
Led at the front by goal-scoring machine Mokhtar Dahari, argurably the best Malaysian footballer of all time, this particular era of footballers were arguably some of Malaysia’s finest ever. The team even went on to win a bronze medal at the 1974 Asian Games, defeating North Korea 2-1 in the third placing match.
The team continued its success by qualifying for the AFC Asian Cup in 1976 and 1980, producing world class players such as the “world’s first overlapping centreback” Serbegeth Singh, Dollah Salleh, Mokhtar Dahari, Santokh Singh, Zainal Abidin Hassan and Lim Teong Kim, who managed even to play for Hertha Berlin back in 1988.
The moment the Malaysian team qualified for the 1972 Olympics will always be remembered as one of our finest efforts in sporting history.
3. Datuk Nicole David becomes the youngest world champion.
Currently the World’s No. 1 in squash, Nicole is also the first Asian woman to be ranked as World No. 1. She has captured the World Open title in 2005, 2006 and 2008 and the British Open title in 2005, 2006 and 2008, and the title listing just doesn’t stop.
The young Malaysian athlete has won the WISPA Player of The Year Award 4 times in a row through years 2004 to 2008 and looks primed to win it again in 2009.
Her launching pad to stardom came back in December 2005 when she beat Rachael Grinham in the final of the Hong Kong World Championships to become the youngest world champion in the history of the sport.
Nicol repeated the feat the following year when she faced another Grinham sister, this time it was Natalie Grinham, at the Ulster Hall in Belfast. During that time, she managed a total 51 match winning streak from March 2006 to April 2007 when she finally lost to Natalie Grinham in the final of the Seoul 2007 Open.
In 2008, she reclaimed her No. 1 ranking by continuing her unmatchable winning ways.
She continues to set the benchmark for younger Malaysian athletes, although, some do fear that it’s a benchmark set too high. Nevertheless, Nicol David remains a sincere pride of Malaysia.
4. The 1998 Commonwealth Games.
In 1998, the 16th Commonwealth Games were held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, catupulting the nation as the first Asian country to host the Commonwealth Games. It was held from the 11th of September to the 21st of September 1998, making it the last Commonwealth Games of the 20th century.
An astonishing record of 70 nations provided a total of 3,638 athletes that were set to take part in the grand event. Of the 70, 34 nations came out medal winners at the end of the event.
Hosting the Commonwealth Games was seriously a major event, with the construction of the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil. The new 100,000 spectator capacity stadium was set to be the venue for the opening and closing ceremony as well as the main venue of the games itself.
His Majesty the King of Malaysia, Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Jaafar ibni Almarhum Tuanku Abdul Rahman declared the 16th games opened on 11th September. Australia came out winners of the event with England and Canada following closely in second and third respectively. Malaysia came in fourth place.
5. Datuk Lee Chong Wei wins Olympic Silver in Beijing.
The 2008 Olympic Games saw Lee end Malaysia’s Olympic medal drought since 1996. The local hero made his way past Ronald Susilo, Kęstutis Navickas and Sony Dwi Kuncoro before reaching the semifinals of the event where he met the fired-up Korean, Lee Hyun-il. Malaysian fans were treated to a brilliant semifinal showdown between the Korean Lee Hyun-il and Lee Chong Wei.
Malaysian Lee came out on top in the battle and made his way into the final against China’s best, Lin Dan. Although Chong Wei was unable to come out of the match with gold, his efforts in reaching the finals of the Olympic itself, let alone winning the silver medal deserves every inch of the recognition he gets for it.
6. The 1992 Thomas Cup triumph.
The Thomas Cup brings together the nations of the world under one roof for the premier international badminton team championship. In 1992, the final stage of the tournament was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Defending champions China along with 53 other nations took part in the competition as Malaysia was set to host the event. 8 teams would then qualify for the final stage of the event.
The all-star lineup of Rashid Sidek, Razif Sidek, Cheah Soon Kit, Kwan Yoke Meng and Foo Kok Keong were set to represent Malaysia at the Thomas Cup.
The team qualified from group B during the qualifying stages against the likes of Korea, England and Denmark. They then went on to play reigning champions China in the semi’s and came out victorious.
7. Karamjit Singh, the first Asian to win the FIA Production Car World Rally Championship.
Also known as the “Flying Sikh”, Karamjit Singh claims the honour of being an FIA Production Car World Rally Champion as well as the first Asian driver ever to win the drivers’ title.
Karamjit’s talents and hard work were bound to lead him to the title of being an FIA World Rally Champion, and it all came to fruition when he drove the win home in a Proton PERT.
The “Flying Sikh” began rallying professionally in 1985. He has since won the 2001 Asia Pacific Rally Championship for Drivers, the 2002 FIA Production Car World Championship for Drivers, and the 2002 and 2004 FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship for Drivers.
These days, you can find Karamjit in a Proton Satria Neo Super 2000 in the Asia Pacific Rally Championships for the Proton R3 Malaysia Rally Team.
8. Malaysian Hockey team's Silver at the 1998 Commonwealth games.
Our Malaysian home hockey heroes managed started off in style, coming out as table leaders in the group stages of the event, trumping England, Canada, Pakistan and Kenya along the way. They made their way into the semis against India and defeated a strong Indian team in the semi-finals of the event with a 1-0 victory.
In the other semi’s, it was Australia v. England with the Aussies advancing.
The final stage was set for an Australia v. Malaysia battle which ended in 4-0 victory to the Aussies. Nevertheless, the Malaysian hockey team still deserves to be acknowledged as local heroes for the amazing feat of getting so far in the tournament.
9. Shalin Zulkifli becomes Asian No. 1 bowler.
Malaysian bowling prodigy Shalin Zulkifli stepped up her game when she ranked No. 1 in Asia. She is a local legend without question for her amazing achievements in sport.
Currently a regular player on the PBA Women’s Series regular, Shalin first reached her No.1 rank back in 2000, doing so with a sequence of top three finishes in various Asian tournaments.
What’s more amazing is that she held the World No.1 rank for two consecutive years through 2000 to 2002. She regained the rank again in 2004, this time as Shalin was crowned champion for the Bahrain Open, Asian Bowling Tour, Thailand Open, Sinai Open, and the Malaysian Open in that year.
10. Datuk Lee Chong Wei becomes World No.1.
He’s been honoured with a “Datukship” and dubbed a national hero by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak for his outstanding achievements in Badminton. He’s also the first ever Malaysian to reach the final of the men’s singles event in the Olympics. He is Datuk Lee Chong Wei.
As a young lad, Chong Wei found basketball to be his preferred sport. Granting his mother’s wishes however, Chong Wei decided that he should go into badminton. He was discovered by a familiar face, Misbun Sidek and was drafted into the Malaysian national badminton squad.
Since then, he has won a total of 19 titles and has been ranked as world no.1 twice, in 2006 and 2008. His first achievement of the World No. 1 rank came in 2006 when he famously won helped Malaysia in scoring two gold medals in the Commonwealth Games for the badminton squad.
In 2008, Chong Wei was once again reinstated as the World No. 1 as he once again lifted Malaysia onto the world limelight with his badminton prowess, even defeating Lin Dan to give Malaysia a 1-0 lead in their match against defending champions China in the Thomas Cup in Jakarta, Indonesia.