Underwater hockey takes young Haikal to 2019 SEA Games

Last update: 24/11/2019

By Norliatika Elias

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 24  -- It all started out as a hobby, but now underwater hockey has become a huge part of Muhammad Danish Haikal Mohd Fadel’s daily routine as he undergoes intensive training for the 2019 SEA Games in the Philippines.

The 15-year-old said he was a swimmer prior to this, but his coach’s encouragement has made him wanted to challenge his ability to participate in the new sport.

“I started swimming since I was eight, but I have challenged myself to try out underwater hockey since the middle of last year. I started to invest my time in this new sport after a suggestion from my coach, after seeing how challenging this sport is,” he told Bernama.

Muhammad Danish Haikal or better known as Haikal, is currently undergoing intensive training under the guidance of coach Adrian Stuart to realise the mission of the national team to win bronze medal at the biennial regional multi-sport event.

Commenting on the challenges he faced, Haikal said holding one’s breath for a lengthy period of time underwater was one of the most difficult challenges for him and for other athletes involved in the sport.

“The hardest challenge is when I have to hold my breath underwater, as some people can last of up to four minutes, while I can only last 2.3 minutes,” he said.

“It is not impossible for underwater hockey to become popular in Malaysia because of its unique elements, a combination of hockey and swimming, in one sport,” said the Kuala Lumpur-born athlete.

Underwater hockey, also known as Octopush, is played at the bottom of a swimming pool with two teams competing to manoeuvre a puck with a hockey stick into the opposing team’s goal.

This is the first time underwater hockey is contested in the SEA Games.

The national team, formed three years ago through the Malaysian Underwater Hockey Association (MUHA), comprised 24 players (12 men and 12 women) who will be competing for four gold medals – the men’s and women’s six-on-six and men’s and women’s four-on-four events – to be held from Dec 2 to 5 at Vermosa Sports Hub, Cavite.