By Vanishaa Vasudhevan

Get to Know the Pride of Nations Who Will Compete in Malaysia Olympics 2024

While the quest for that elusive gold medal may still hang in the balance, one thing is certain: the spirit of Malaysian athletes will shine brightly in Paris.
malaysia at the olympics

As the world eagerly anticipates the grand spectacle of Malaysians at the Olympic Games 2024 in Paris, there’s a bittersweet tinge to the excitement. Among the usual lineup of sports stars, there are notable absences—the familiar faces we’ve come to cheer for won’t be gracing the Olympic stage this time. Athletes like Pandelela Rinong and Farah Ann, who captured our hearts with their grace and grit, will be missed as the games unfold.

But as tradition dictates, the torch for the Paris 2024 Olympics has been ignited, heralding the final stretch to the much-awaited event. It’s a symbolic moment that sets the stage for the torch relay journeying through Greece and France, culminating in the luminous glow of the Olympic flame in Paris on July 26.

In two months, the world will converge in Paris, with the Malaysian contingent carrying our hopes and dreams of securing gold. This year holds particular significance for Malaysia, as it has been nearly seven decades since the country first participated in the Olympics. The time feels ripe for a breakthrough, and these young warriors have a history of indomitability that is a potent mixture of potential success.

Even though the size of the Malaysian contingent is likely to be smaller compared to previous editions after some big names fell by the wayside in the qualifiers, it’s still too early to underestimate our young talents. In light of this, we’ve compiled a list of key facts about our esteemed athletes.

Everything You Should Know About Our Malaysian Olympic 2024 Superstars

Azizulhasni Awang (Cycling, Track, and Keirin)

Datuk Azizulhasni Awang’s odyssey is a true testament to tenacity in the world of track cycling. Hailing from Dungun in Terengganu, he didn’t let his smaller stature hold him back. As a two-time Olympic medalist and world champion, his achievements have brought pride to Malaysia. 

Renowned as the “Pocket Rocketman,” Azizulhasni’s nickname isn’t just about his lightning speed; it’s also a nod to his 1.68 metres stature while competing against taller and larger foreign cyclists. It’s proof that despite his height, he has soared to great achievements in the cycling world.

This year’s Olympics could be his fifth appearance on stage, a testament to his longevity and dedication to the sport. His pathway began at the age of 10 in his hometown, where he discovered his passion for cycling. Making sacrifices from a young age, his hard work paid off with medals at two Olympic Games and the honour of being Malaysia’s flag-bearer at the Beijing 2008 Opening Ceremony.

Beyond the velodrome, he also indulges in another passion: cooking. During the pandemic, he spent time honing his culinary skills while imparting them to his children. Cooking became more than just a hobby; it was a way to maintain his training diet and bond with his family.

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However, his journey hasn’t been without its challenges. Injuries have tested his resilience, from a terrifying crash in 2011 where he suffered a 20-cm-long splinter through his calf muscle to a viral lung infection in 2018 and microsurgery for a finger injury in 2020. Despite these setbacks, Azizulhasni’s determination and courage have never wavered, inspiring countless fans around the world.

Ariana Nur Dania Mohamad Zairi (Archery)

In the realm of archery, Ariana Nur Dania Mohd Zairi’s adventure kicked off with a spark of curiosity back when she was just 10. Little did she know then that this simple interest would become the flame that lit her path in ways she never imagined.

Now, at the age of 18, Ariana is on the brink of something truly remarkable—she’s about to make history as one of the youngest archers to snag an Olympic spot purely on merit. Enthralled by archery amidst her peers’ love for netball and badminton, she pursued the sport relentlessly. After seven years of dedication and setbacks, she finally earned a spot on the national backup team, edging closer to her ultimate goal.

But the real magic happened in Bangkok, Thailand, at the World Archery (WA) Asian Continental Qualifier Tournament, where she not only managed to clinch the gold medal in the women’s recurve final, but also secured a golden ticket to the 2024 Paris Olympics. Setting a new national record with an impressive score of 337 points, her performance solidified her status as a rising star in Malaysian archery.

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She is currently pursuing a Diploma in Engineering Technology (Product Design and Manufacturing) at the prestigious German-Malaysian Institute (GMI). But there’s more to Ariana than just academia—she’s a trailblazer. In fact, she holds the distinction of being the first student from a religious study institution to represent Malaysia in the Olympic Games.

However, her path to greatness wasn’t always clear-cut. In moments of hesitation, it was her mother who served as her guiding light, propelling her forward on her archery odyssey with support and encouragement. According to national archery coach Wan Khalmizam Wan Abdul Aziz, Ariana’s achievements are a testament to her exceptional focus on competing in tournaments, even during exam seasons. Now, as she reflects on her journey, you can see the pride in her eyes. It’s not just about the medals or the records; it’s about the grit that got her here.

Bertrand Rhodict Lises (Diving)

At a mere 19 years old, Bertrand Rhodict Lises is another young achiever making waves in the diving scene. He secured a coveted spot in the men’s 10-metre platform individual event at the World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka, impressing judges with a total score of 420.70 after finishing 10th in the semi-finals. This unexpected feat not only grabbed headlines but also earned him the distinction of being the first Malaysian diver to qualify for the upcoming Paris Olympics.

His passage into diving had a humble beginning. Born in Kuching, Sarawak, he was introduced to swimming at an early age due to his siblings’ involvement in the sport. However, it wasn’t long before he realised that swimming didn’t quite float his boat. At four, he found the activity frustrating, unable to reach the end of the pool and feeling unsatisfied with his efforts to stay afloat. Even as a full-time diver now, he harbours no desire to return to swimming, finding it exhausting.

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Born into a family of athletes, the young diver inherited a legacy of competition and excellence. However, his voyage into diving has not been easy. On three separate occasions, he contemplated quitting due to the demanding training schedule conflicting with school commitments. Thanks to his parents, he eventually managed to balance academics and training.

At 14, he joined the National Sports Council of Malaysia (MSN), transitioning to Kuala Lumpur to join the national team. Despite setbacks like a significant ankle injury during a COVID lockdown, he remained resilient.

Outside of diving, he also enjoys gaming, particularly playing Valorant with his friends. In moments of tension before a dive, Rhodict turns to his favourite treat, Haribo gummies, specifically favouring the Happy Cola-flavoured ones. These sweet snacks serve as a source of comfort and motivation during competitions, helping him to stay calm and focused. Music also plays a crucial role in Rhodict’s pre-dive routine. He enjoys listening to slow-beat tunes, with artists like Drake topping his playlist. The calming melodies help him maintain composure and concentration before taking the plunge into the water.

Jonathan Wong Guanjie (Shooting)

Jonathan Wong Guanjie’s adventure, from novice shooter to national champion, is a tale of unexpected beginnings and unwavering determination. It all started with a spur-of-the-moment decision to tag along with his sister to a shooting selection test back in 2004. Little did he know that this impromptu visit would ignite a passion that would take him to the heights of the sporting world in pursuit of Olympic glory. At 31, he’s not just aiming for the bullseye but for a podium finish at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

Despite facing setbacks in previous Olympics, his persistence burns brighter than ever. From the moment his first shot hit the target, Wong was hooked. Unlike traditional sports, where the competition is against others, shooting offered him a unique sense of control and focus. For him, shooting isn’t just about aiming and firing; it’s about mastering the art of concentration and challenging oneself to perform under pressure.

But the story doesn’t end at the shooting range. Despite his success in the sport, he remains committed to his education, pursuing a degree in aerospace engineering at the University Putra Malaysia (UPM) and graduating with first-class honours.

Fun fact: Jonathan’s downtime is just as exciting as his shooting career. He shares memorable moments with his girlfriend, Olympic gold medalist Zylane Lee Yhing Huey, who also studied at UPM. Together, they enjoy hiking, exploring butterfly parks, and going on road trips to destinations like the Genting Highlands and Fraser Hill.

Nur Aisyah Mohamad Zubir (Cycling, Road)

All eyes are on Nur Aisyah Mohamad Zubir, the national cyclist who is set to make history as the first Malaysian woman to compete in the road racing event at the prestigious sporting event. With the weight of expectations upon her, 26-year-old Nur Aisyah approaches the Olympics steely to showcase Malaysia’s cycling prowess on the global stage.

Grateful for the trust placed in her, she is gearing up to deliver a performance that will electrify audiences and inspire a nation. Despite the daunting challenge that lies ahead, she remains consistent in her commitment, driven by a deep-seated desire to excel in the name of our country.

Reflecting on her unexpected expedition to the Olympics, she acknowledges the mix of excitement and disbelief that accompanies her selection. With an impressive track record boasting silver and bronze medals at the Southeast Asian Games, as well as commendable finishes at international competitions like the Hangzhou Asian Games and Tour of Biwase Vietnam, Nur Aisyah is no stranger to podium success.

Her coach, Amir Mustafa Rusli, was also a former Olympian. He painstakingly designed a training programme tailored to her requirements, ensuring she was equipped with the necessary endurance and tactical skills to overcome the challenges of the Paris road race. From intense training sessions to competing in renowned races such as the Tour of Thailand and prestigious European one-day events, Nur Aisyah’s preparation has been incredibly rigorous.

In addition to her cycling pursuits, she also enjoys travelling, cherishes religious practices, and loves spending time with her best friend. As she and Amir gear up for the 158-kilometre road race, their shared goal is clear: to bring victory to Malaysia and solidify Nur Aisyah’s legacy as a trailblazer in Malaysian cycling.

Nurul Izzah Izzati Mohd Asri (Cycling, Track, and Keirin)

Nurul Izzah Izzati Mohd Asri is now known as the new ‘pocket rocketwoman’ of Malaysia. A 21-year-old, Nurul Izzah emerged as a formidable force in the world of track cycling, earning accolades and admiration for her exceptional talent and unwavering dedication to her craft.

Born and raised in Sungai Petani (Kedah), her path to sporting stardom began at a young age. Driven by competition and captivated by the track, she launched her cycling passion. Her innate athleticism and relentless drive quickly garnered notice from coaches and mentors, propelling her to the sport’s highest levels.

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One of Nurul Izzah’s career-defining moments occurred at the 2024 Asian Track Cycling Championships (ACC) in New Delhi. There, she secured two gold medals in the keirin event and the 500-metre time trial, showcasing her track prowess. This achievement marked her first podium finish in the sprint event during her third appearance at the ACC, making her only the second female athlete to accomplish such a feat. While she earned silver in the previous year’s championship, she now has the opportunity to reclaim gold in her favourite event, the 500-metre time trial, in the ongoing competition. Whether competing in the keirin, the sprint, or the team sprint event, she demonstrates remarkable skill in various disciplines of track cycling and her versatility on the track.

Beyond her achievements on the track, she is also known for her humility and grace off the bike. Despite her success and acclaim, she remains grounded and humble, always quick to credit her coaches, teammates, and supporters for their role in her journey.

Looking ahead, her future in track cycling looks bright. With her sights set on the Paris Olympics in 2024, she is poised to make her mark on the international stage. As she continues to hone her skills and strive for greatness, there is no doubt that Nurul Izzah will remain a shining beacon of hope and inspiration for generations of Malaysian athletes to come.

Nur Shazrin Mohd Latif (Sailing) 

The 27-year-old Nur Shazrin Mohd Latif was born on February 2, 1998, and grew up in Pasir Gudang, Johor. From the young age of eight, Shazrin’s connection to the sea was fostered by her family, particularly her mother, who encouraged her to pursue a sailing adventure alongside her sisters. 

As Shazrin refined her skills on the water, her innate talent flourished, garnering recognition on both regional and international platforms. In 2015, she left an indelible mark at the Southeast Asian Games, securing two gold medals and announcing her ascent as a rising star in Malaysian sailing. Her prowess earned her a coveted spot at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, where she represented Malaysia in the women’s Laser Radial event. 

Continuing her string of triumphs, she earned a bronze medal in the Laser Radial event at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta, further solidifying her stature as one of Malaysia’s premier sailors. Her journey to Olympic success persisted as she competed in the Laser Radial event at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, exhibiting her resolve once again. However, it was in 2022 that Shazrin etched her name in the Malaysian sports record, grasping the gold medal in the women’s ILCA 6 event at the Asian Games, becoming the first Malaysian to achieve this feat. 

Beyond her athletic endeavours, her effervescent personality and genuine warmth have endeared her to all who encounter her. She relishes collecting mementoes from around the world, each one a cherished reminder of the places she’s explored and the people she’s encountered. As she prepares to represent Malaysia once again, this time at the 2024 Olympics in Paris, her journey comes full circle. 

Muhammad Shah Firdaus Sahrom ( Cycling, Track & Keirin)

Born in Muar, Johor, Malaysia, Muhammad Shah Firdaus Sahrom, known to many simply as Shah Firdaus, grew up with a passion for cycling that would eventually propel him to become one of Malaysia’s most prominent athletes.

Shah Firdaus’ journey to becoming a world-class cyclist began to gain traction when he entered the competitive cycling scene in Malaysia. His breakthrough came in 2018 when he participated in the men’s sprint event at the UCI Track Cycling World Championships. In 2021, he acquired the gold medal in the men’s keirin event at the Australian National Track Cycling Championships, defeating the defending champion, Datuk Azizulhasni Awang, in an astonishing display of skill and determination.

His success continued on the Asian stage, where he represented Malaysia with pride and distinction. In 2020, Shah Firdaus earned the honour of representing Malaysia at the prestigious Tokyo Olympics in both the sprint and keirin events.

Although he did not stand on the podium, his participation in the Games served as a source of inspiration and pride for his fellow Malaysians. This year’s Olympics is his second appearance at the games, where he will represent Malaysia once again.

Outside of his athletic pursuits, Muhammad Shah Firdaus Sahrom leads a private life, preferring to let his achievements on the track speak for themselves. Shah Firdaus cherishes the simple joys of spending quality time with his parents in his hometown of Muar. Despite his rigorous training schedule and international competitions that have taken him far from home,  he finds solace and comfort in returning to the familiar surroundings of his family home. One of his favourite activities is indulging in his mother’s cooking, a taste of home that he sorely misses during his time away.

Aniq Kasdan (Weightlifting) 

Mohamad Aniq bin Kasdan, born in Johor, Malaysia, stands as a shining star in Malaysian weightlifting. His journey has been adorned with striking achievements and historic milestones. His ascent to prominence began with a historic feat at the 2021 World Weightlifting Championships held in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

Competing in the men’s 55kg category, he secured the silver medal at the event. His achievement not only brought glory to Malaysia but also marked Aniq as the first Malaysian weightlifter to ever stand on the podium at the World Weightlifting Championships.

Under the guidance of his mentor, Amirul Hamizan Ibrahim, Aniq honed his skills and sharpened his focus, relentlessly pursuing excellence in every aspect of his training. His dedication and hard work paid off as he continued to make strides in the world of weightlifting, earning recognition and admiration both at home and abroad.

After an eight-year hiatus, Malaysia is finally making a triumphant return to the Olympic weightlifting arena with Aniq Kasdan reigning as a Commonwealth Games champion through a stellar performance at the IWF World Cup in Phuket. The 21-year-old showcased his strength and skill in the men’s 61kg category, finishing with an impressive overall total of 290kg. This achievement solidifies his position as the eighth-ranked lifter in the Olympic rankings, guaranteeing his spot in Paris.

Khairulnizam Afendy (Sailing) 

Seasoned sailor Khairulnizam Afendy, set sail at the young age of five. The Royal Selangor Yacht Club served as the harbinger of his lifelong love affair with the sea, where each wave and gust of wind whispered tales of adventure and discovery for him and his father, Mohd Afendy Abdullah, a former national sailing luminary.

In a monumental achievement, he gained a silver medal in the laser standard category at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta, while being the first Malaysian to secure a spot in the prestigious Tokyo Olympics. Behind this triumph stood the intense mentorship of his father, who not only served as a coach but also as his steadfast companion. Despite doubts surrounding his Olympic prospects, Khairulnizam remained resolute in disproving naysayers. Following a setback at the Hangzhou Asian Games and exclusion from the Podium Programme, the 30-year-old sailor self-funded his journey to keep his fourth consecutive Olympic Games aspirations alive. 

Against all odds, he secured his fourth consecutive Olympics appearance by qualifying for the ILCA7 class at the Last Chance Regatta in Hyeres, France. Despite a challenging campaign, he finished third with 63 net points across 10 races, overcoming initial setbacks to realise his dream. 

Joining Nur Shazrin Mohd Latif as Malaysia’s sailing representative in Paris, Khairulnizam’s emotional victory underscores his determination and resilience, propelled by a career-best performance at the World Cup Series in Mallorca, Spain. 

Lee Zii Jia (Badminton) (Men’s singles) 

On the path to the world of badminton, Lee Zii Jia has been a beacon of hope and inspiration for many upcoming athletes. Born in Alor Setar, Kedah, Lee started playing badminton when he was six years old after his father, a former basketball player, introduced him to the game. 

Since then, Lee has possessed a natural interest in badminton, which led him to a kickstart at Keat Hwa H Primary School. Later, he was swiftly drafted into the prestigious Bukit Jalil Sports School due to his exceptional performance in under-12 competitions. 

His breakthrough on the international stage came in 2015 when he attained the junior champion titles in the Perak and Selangor Badminton Opens, catching the attention of the Badminton Association of Malaysia. Following that, in 2019, he clinched the men’s singles gold at the SEA Games, cementing his status as a national hero. 

He was also known for being a badminton elite who broke into the top 10 world rankings after a notable performance at the All-England Open. In 2021, he inscribed his name in history by winning his first Super 1000 tournament at the All-England Open. His ascent was meteoric, marked by notable victories and milestones. He has been trained by various coaches, including former national badminton champions Datuk Misbun Sidek and Datuk Tey Seu Bock.

Off the court, he is known for his multifaceted talents, including singing, rapping, music production, and playing basketball. Even though his passion for sports extends beyond badminton, he often finds himself disliking running. Fun fact: his go-to cheat meal is Korean food—specifically barbecued pork belly. 

After a rollercoaster of events in 2023 that ended on a disappointing note with his assistant coach quitting, Lee will be hoping for the perfect start in 2024 with the Malaysia Open on home soil by making his second appearance at the Olympics this year in Paris.  With the weight of expectations on his shoulders, Lee is poised to make his indication on the grandest stage of them all, aiming to add an Olympic medal to his ever-growing list of achievements.