SINGAPORE – Already a gold medallist in sambo at the 2019 SEA Games, Nazri Sutari had hoped to add another in kickboxing at the next edition in Hanoi.
But he suffered an agonising quarter-final defeat to Cambodia’s Lvay Chhoeung in 2022.
Yet the 33-year-old brushed it off as a “speed bump” and vowed to return stronger, devising a meticulous training logbook to keep himself accountable for his progress.
At a seven-week training camp in Serbia ahead of the Cambodia Games, he diligently spent at least an hour before every session jotting down specific training objectives, such as his body language, behaviour and mental state.
His efforts finally paid dividends when he won silver in the Under-71kg low kick event at the World Association of Kickboxing Organisation (Wako) Sarajevo European Cup in Bosnia and Herzegovina last Sunday.
After a gruelling come-from-behind, semi-final win against North Macedonian Ahmeti Metin, Nazri succumbed in the final to Montenegro’s reigning champion Nemanja Cadjenovic.
The result was an improvement from the bronze he won at the Wako Balkan Open in October 2022.
Nazri told The Straits Times: “I would say the reason behind my improvement is my work ethic. I came all the way to Europe for just a few months and I didn’t want to waste my time because I can never replicate the quality of sparring (in Serbia) compared to Singapore.
“So every training session, I made sure I practised with intention and intensity.”
Fortunately for Nazri, his recent stint in Europe, which cost an estimated $10,000, was partially covered under the spexGLOW grant awarded to selected athletes pursuing full-time training programmes before major Games.
Nazri, who competed in sambo – a martial art that is similar to judo and ju-jitsu – in 2019, dabbled in different forms of martial arts like wrestling, grappling and muay thai before pivoting to kickboxing. The discipline has a clearer path with more fights on the calendar, he noted.
He holds a full-time martial arts coaching job alongside his role as technical director of the Kickboxing Federation of Singapore. In April, he was appointed to the Wako development committee, where he helps with the implementation of social programmes.
On Saturday, he will be making his second push for a kickboxing gold at the Games.
Despite battling fatigue and jetlag, Nazri – who returned from Europe on Tuesday night before leaving for Phnom Penh less than 24 hours later – insists he is in good health.
“Physical fitness wise, I’m still on point because I’ve put in many hours of training. (At the Games) all I can control is my own abilities,” he said.
“I know my strengths and weaknesses, my temperament, and I can adjust accordingly. The nature of my sport, the risk is very high. My resolve has to be strong. If I don’t go all in, I will be putting my life in danger.”
Serbian Aleksandar Topic, who has been Nazri’s coach since 2021, believes he is “one of the best in South-east Asia”.
He said: “What’s unique about Nazri is his power and speed for his build. He’s got loads of muscle mass, but he can also move fast. If Nazri can medal in Europe, which is the most competitive continent, then I don’t see why he can’t medal at the SEA Games. I believe he can do it.”
Nazri is going for gold, adding: “I’ve sacrificed so much and invested a lot of time and energy that I don’t want to settle for anything less. If I don’t aim for gold, I am not doing myself and my efforts justice.”