When Malaysia’s first women’s Olympic shooter takes aim in London, she will offer a silent prayer to Allah to keep her unborn child from kicking until the mom-to-be can pull the trigger.
Nur Suryani Mohamad Taibi, the 2010 Commonwealth Games gold medalist and a navy logistics officer, is due in September, but that — and the concerns of friends and family — has not stopped her. Not yet, any way.
Her bubbly personality belies what she calls a “stubborn” streak. She kept training through morning sickness and a rapidly expanding belly, and with the Games opening today, she is tantalizingly close to her dream.
“Most people said I was crazy and selfish because they think I am jeopardizing my baby’s health,” said the 29-year-old, who is expecting for the first time.
“My husband said grab it as this is a rare chance which may not come again. Also, I am the mother. I know what I can do. I am a stubborn person,” she added.
Nur Suryani is not the first expectant mother to compete in the Olympic Games.
However, in nearly the eighth month of pregnancy, the 10m air rifle competitor will surely be one of the most heavily pregnant Olympians in history. She will smash the record books if she wins gold — Malaysia has never taken an Olympic crown.
Readying for a recent training session, she squeezed her abdomen into the heavy body suit and jacket worn by shooters to aid stability before shouldering her rifle.
Standing as still as a statue, Nur Suryani takes a deep breath before each shot, puts the target in her sights and squeezes the trigger.
She no longer suffers from morning sickness, but shooting requires an extremely steady hand and body, so much so that many shooters time their shots between heartbeats, when the body is most stable.
A key concern therefore will be whether her unborn child — a girl whom she will name Dayana Widyan — kicks at the wrong time.
“I am able to shoot as normal. But a kick from the baby stops me from pulling the trigger,” she said.
She recites verses from the Koran to calm the unborn girl, she said.
“Every morning I talk to her and I say: ‘Mummy is going for training. Please remain calm. Don’t kick.’ But she was naughty this morning,” she said, bursting into laughter.
However, the confident Malaysian, who won bronze in the 2010 Asian Games and is ranked 47th in the world, insists she is as fit as ever and that her scores have remained consistent in training even as her pregnancy has advanced.
She has adjusted her stance slightly to accommodate the physical changes and says that the extra weight actually has the added benefit of increasing stability.
“But if the baby kicks I have to breathe easy and let the baby calm down before shooting,” she said.
Nur Suryani’s husband Marhazli Mohtar, a police officer, will accompany her to London to help settle her nerves — and in case the baby arrives prematurely.
“I just want to perform my best at the Games. If gold comes, thanks to God and my baby. Who knows? Miracles can happen,” she said.