28 June 2021
The father, Hamkah Afik, is a former national sprinter with medals from SEA Games, who now coaches his daughter, Haanee Hamkah, a budding national runner. Performance at ever higher levels is what drives both of them, a trait they share with Audi’s concept of Living Progress that comprises Performance, Design, Digital and Sustainability.
Photo credit: Hamkah Afik
Hamkah Afik and Haanee Hamkah
Hamkah was only 17 years old when he first took part in the SEA Games in Malaysia in 1989. By the time he retired as a sprinter in 2004, he had won four medals across seven editions of the biennial meet, including the 200m silver in Singapore in 1993 and earned the respect of his peers and the community for his enduring performance over the years.
Now, he is 48 years old and a track and field school coach and by some fluke, he coached Haanee when she was in Temasek Polytechnic for her Diploma in Biomedical Sciences.
Haanee was 18 when she made her debut at the SEA Games in Manila in 2019 as a member of the women’s 4x100m relay team. She has graduated from Temasek Polytechnic and will be heading to take up a scholarship to study for a Bachelor’s Degree in BioMedical Science at the University of Western Australia on 19 July 2021. Hamkah’s coaching of his daughter will now take a break.
The father-daughter duo shares their thoughts on the challenges of their high-performance sports and the life lessons they value the most.
What drove both of you to take up such as a high-performance sport as sprinting?
Hamkah: I was among the fastest runners and was selected to represent my schools at the National Schools Track and Field Championships. I was never among the finalists but I persevered. When I turned 17, I was the fastest schoolboy in Singapore. It also broadened my horizons as I was part of the Singapore contingent to the SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The team came in fourth in the 4x100 relay; missing out on the bronze medal. That taught me that in athletics, as in life, there are more failures than successes, but one must be resilient and aspire to improve.
Haanee: I was drawn to athletics because of the stories I heard of my father and from watching videos of the races he ran. I wanted to be a national athlete just like him and I started off with the long jump. I then competed in the hurdles. I only started sprinting the 100m and 200m when my secondary school coach encouraged me to. When I was selected to represent Singapore in the 4x100 relay team, I was over the moon.
Photo credit: Hamkah Afik
Is coaching your daughter any different from coaching a non-family member?
Hamkah: Of course, because there is an emotional bond between us. It pains me when I put her through strenuous training or when she falters in the race. Remember, an athlete will face many failures. For example, people will remember the winner but there are six or seven other runners in the same race. They might have achieved their personal best times but no one talks of them. No one remembers them. But as her coach, I keep the relationship strictly professional on the track. At home, I return to being her father. We don’t talk about athletics at home.
Photo credit: Hamkah Afik
What was your greatest setback?
Hamkah: Athletes generally peak between the ages of 23 to 25 and I hit my peak when preparing for the Chiang Mai SEA Games in 1995. I was then 23 years old. I was breaking the SEA Games record in my training runs but I tore my hamstring in the Qualifying Round. It took me more than a year to recover. If I had won the 100m or 200m in record time, I would have qualified for the Atlanta Olympics but it was not to be.
What are the most important values you live by?
Hamkah: Respect for others, resilience and belief in yourself are the main values that guide me. Perseverance and learning from your failures are also important too, together with commitment. There is only a short span of time when an athlete is at his or her best. Miss that opportunity and it is gone forever.
Haanee: For me, humility tops my list of values. An athlete’s life is fraught with injuries and fluctuations in performance. You will also experience off days when you do not perform at your best so it is wise to be humble. My father has instilled in me that I must respect everyone -- the spectators who come to watch me race, the track officials and even my competitors.
What’s your goal now, Haanee?
Haanee: I want to continue running competitively and I also want to be a sports doctor. Sport has always intrigued me and I want to help athletes overcome injuries so they can return to peak performance. I remember people teasing me by saying “Like father, like daughter”, and I would laugh it off because I couldn’t think of a suitable retort. Then, there were others who told me that there was no money or future in athletics and it would be better for me to focus on my studies. I want to show them that they were seriously wrong.
Records are still being broken. Is it because athletes perform better today or from technological advancements?
Hamkah: It's a combination of both. On the international level, with the advancement of coaching development and expertise, coaches are well-trained and equipped with knowledge for high performance. More athletes are given opportunities to turn professionals. The support from doctors, physiotherapists, nutritionists, masseurs, sports psychologists, sports scientists and many more definitely helps the athletes to reach their goals and full potential. The athletes also have access to the latest technological prototypes from their sponsors who are mainly leading sports brands. The athletes are part of these research teams to get first-hand feedback. Determination, courage, and hunger for success also play a big part. All said the breaking of records is the exception rather than the rule.
What does Living Progress mean to you?
Hamkah: It refers to the determination to improve, to do better tomorrow than what you achieved today. There will always be setbacks but if you are committed to achieve excellence and dedicate your life to reach this goal, you are in the “Living Progress’ mode.
Haanee: I see it as defying the odds, and overcoming challenges as a team so as to reach the desired goal. For myself, I have improved my personal best over the years through my efforts and also from my father’s vast experience. He also goes out of his way to improve his coaching skills by seeking advice from international coaches and researching books and publications on sports to help all the athletes he trains to maximise their potential. That to me is ‘Living Progress’.
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