“I was in kindergarten when my sister started practising silat. Whenever she went for training on Saturdays, I’d ask my parents if I could join her. They eventually said okay, and I was put in this programme that the Singapore Silat Federation launched for young athletes in 2004.

In the beginning, silat was something I only did for fun, but I became really interested in it after winning gold at my first competition in Paris. It was the 2006 France International Junior Open, and I managed to win all three of my fights by knockout.

From then on, I became really serious about it and joined the Singapore Sports School so that I could train everyday. The environment was very motivational because everyone understood each other. Even though we did different sports, we all wanted to do well.

Now that I’m in Poly, some people just don’t understand why I do sports because all they want to do is study. Apart from that, staying in Chua Chu Kang, training in Bedok and attending school in Clementi has also been a challenging part of my life as a sportsman.

I think of all the challenges that I’ve faced, not winning the Silat World Championship was the hardest for me. I’ve participated three times, and getting bronze in 2012 and 2016 was very disappointing because I had worked so hard and was so close to winning.

When times get hard, I just tell myself to relax. I know I have the support of my parents, and I can talk to my coach about anything, be it sports or life, so I continue to give it my all. When I’m in school, I do my best with school projects; when I’m training, I give it my 100 percent.

Preparations for the upcoming SEA Games have been going well. Some people assume that the SEA Games is easy for me as the defending champion, but it’s not. Silat itself originated in Southeast Asia, and the most of the world champions are here.

I’m also fighting in a heavier weight class this year because I’m growing older and my body is changing. The guys in this weight class are stronger and more explosive, and I cannot underestimate them. I just need to focus on being physically and mentally ready.

I’ve been training for it for so long and I definitely want to win gold, so I hope I won’t let anyone down. I hope my supporters in Singapore will continue to support me through this journey.” – Nur Alfian, 21

Interview by: Arman Shah