The PE teacher who helped student-athletes become world champs

Principal and students: (L-R) Khairul Hafiz Jantan, Suhaimi Sun Abdullah and Badrul Hisham Manap.

PETALING JAYA: Suhaimi Sun Abdullah may appear to be just another physical education teacher, but the 60-year-old who retires today after 36 years of teaching has helped many of his student-athletes become national and world champions.

His students at Sports School Tunku Makhota Ismail (SSTMI) in Bandar Penawar and Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS) include Olympic divers Pandelela Rinong and Lee Mun Yee, and cyclist Azizulhasni Awang.

Others are footballer Safiq Rahim, gymnast Sarina Sundara Rajah and athletes Khairul Hafiz Jantan, Badrul Hisham and Haikal Hanaifi.

Khairul, the national 100m record holder, was coached by SSTMI teacher Poad Kassim.

Suhaimi also spoke fondly of other achievers in an interview ahead of his retirement today.

He said the SSTMI rugby and hockey teams were national junior league champions while others like Shahrukh Amin Dzulkilfi and Muhammad Nurfitri Ammar Rosli excelled in bowling and cycling, respectively.

“I am blessed to have been able to help change the lives of young people.

“They have shown that with guidance, they can do the impossible,” he said.

Suhaimi’s second home is the playing field.

Suhaimi, who has four daughters, graduated in physical education from Michigan State University in the US. Here, he is recognised for his understanding of sports and academic development, and athlete pathways.

He has written books, modules and papers on the concept and management of sports schools, among others.

He said sports schools had proven that education and sports go hand in hand.

As SSTMI principal, Suhaimi removed the perception that the school was second to BJSS.

His tagline “school of champions” encouraged teachers and students to reach for the sky in academic and sporting excellence.

Suhaimi, a sportsman himself, played football for the Kinta Indian Association and Dravidian FC in Ipoh.

As a Methodist High School athlete, he was trained by former national track star and coach, K Jayabalan.

Suhaimi began his career as a teacher at SK Padang Halban, Kota Bharu in 1984. He taught at BJSS a year after it was established in 1986 where he was head of the sports science unit. He was principal at SSTMI for five years from 2014.

He retires as deputy director of the sports, co-curriculum and arts division at the education ministry.

But his involvement with sports and education will continue with an international school where he will be the director of education.

He will also be working on grassroots development with the Milo Champions clinic.

“Having achieved what I set out to do, I hope more time will be allotted to physical education in public schools,” he said, adding that sports schools alone were not enough to tap talent.

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