Sabahan's double joy
Published on: Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Kota Kinabalu: Winning the University Blue Award from Auckland University of Technology (AUT) is tough but Sabahan Nathanael Tan Aik Ming created history by winning it back-to-back and with odds stacked against him.The 26-year-old who stands at 1.90m (6ft 5in) in a frame of 122kg, became the first Asian rugby player to receive the award last year.

Nathanael joined the university four years ago in New Zealand to attain his diploma in sports and recreation. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in the same field majoring in exercise science recently.

The national rugby player since 2009, was seriously injured when he returned to play for the country in the Asian Premier championship in April, this year, when he suffered a broken jaw in two places, in the opening match against South Korea.

He was all wired up and returned home to Sandakan to recover and undergo rehabilitation for three weeks, missing valuable study and examination preparation time.

He was under tremendous pressure to attain his degree but his father, Dr K.H. Tan, a former rugby player and now the vice-president of Eagles Rugby Club, Sandakan, told Nathanael to give his best shot.

"He was under tremendous pressure to pass with flying colours because he was a good student. But the unfortunate injury took away valuable studying time and the process of healing took a toll on him too," said KH.

The AUT Blue award is the highest sporting accolade attainable at university level in New Zealand, which is given annually celebrating the achievements of high performance athletes and recognising their commitment between studies and sports.

The university rated as the top sporting university in New Zealand excels in 25 sports and has 22,000 students under its wings. Only 33 were awarded the AUT Blue awards and for Nathanael is proud feat.

Nathanael who is now a coaching staff of the Eagles Rugby Club in Sandakan, started playing rugby as a 14-year-old and gained admission to AUT because of his rugby and studies. He had also played for North Harbour while in New Zealand, besides featuring for Sabah Eagles in the Cobra 10s.

His blue award was handed over personally by Prof John Cronin, the Sports and Exercise Science – Strength and conditioning Director at AUT – and International Relations Director, at the Eagles Rugby Club premises. Present were club president Velayuthan Tan, who is also the Sabah Rugby Union President and Malaysia Rugby deputy president and an Executive Board member of Asia Rugby.


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