National Artistic Gymnast
As a child, Farah Ann Abdul Hadi had a lot of pent up energy
“I threw a lot of tantrums and they were not normal tantrums,” she says. “They were really bad, like 45 minutes screaming non-stop.
In seeking a solution, her parents, who were pretty active themselves, decided to try gymnastics and it turned out that the sport was the perfect antidote.
“That’s why I started and I just fell in love with the sport,” she reiterates. “When I started gymnastics, the tantrums completely stopped because I was able to channel my energy into something.”
As one of Malaysia’s most accomplished athletes, Farah Ann Abdul Hadi has made numerous strides in the world of gymnastics.
Having picked up gymnastics at the age of three, Farah Ann has certainly come a long way. At age five, the training started to become more intense, up to six times a week and by the time she was six, Farah Ann made her first appearance at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi. Five years later, the gymnast made the nation proud by scoring six medals at the 2015 SEA Games, including two golds for the team and floor exercise categories.
It has, however, not been a journey without sacrifice. At only six, she suffered her first injury, hurting her back just before the Malaysia Games in Malacca. A year later, she fractured her shoulder and at 11, she had a fall that caused a knee injury that put her out of action for a year.
I hope whatever I do does inspire little girls to be themselves. I try to live my life as, if I were looking from the outside I would be very proud of that person.Farah Ann Abdul Hadi
But Farah Ann describes herself as a “resilient” child who persevered at the sport. There were also disappointments that required her to develop a different kind of resilience. There is a lot of pressure, she states. The challenge is to block it out and “just train and compete.”
Then there is also the need to learn to pick yourself up, when you come tumbling down. At the 2015 SEA Games, the athlete fell during the Uneven Bar finals, causing her to win bronze.
“It felt like my heart had broken into two,” she says. “I was devastated and so disappointed in myself because I had lost the gold for Malaysia.”
But it was the fact that she couldn’t contain her emotions that added to the disappointment. The experience, however, taught her that she has to “learn to lose.”
“My roommate came into the room and said to me, ‘it’s just not your time to win’ and that jerked me out of it.”
Two years later, the same thing happened at the SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur but this time, Farah Ann was able to control it. The other great disappointment was when during the Rio Olympics qualification, Farah Ann missed by a margin of 0.1.
“That is basically one foot out of place,” she says. “That just shattered my heart and I felt that my twenty years of training just went out the window. I cried every day for two weeks.”
Two years later at the 2019 SEA Games in Manila, she raked three gold medals for the country, beaming with a big smile as the Malaysian flag was raised at the winners’ podium.
It took time but Farah Ann nailed it this time when she qualified for her first Olympic Games, which will be held in Tokyo after a stellar performance at the 2019 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Stuttgart, Germany. She is the third Malaysian gymnast to make it to the Olympics after Au Li Yen in Sydney 2000 and Ng Shu Wai in Athens 2004.
Closing in a decade since making her Commonwealth Games debut, Farah Ann is a living testament that patience and hard work leads to success.
“It takes a realigning of your goals,” she says, referring to overcoming defeat. “There’s nothing you can do to change the past, so you have to ask what’s next?”