SEPANG: It could have been a Hollywood red carpet event. The fans were screaming, the girls were going on with their high-pitched squeals. Security personnel had a hard time keeping the crowd at bay as it swelled and pushed towards the stars.
And the stars were the returning Malaysian Olympians.
Snaking lines of Harimau Malaysia supporters waited outside the secretariat room in the Bunga Raya Complex here, waiting to mob their favourite national athletes at a press conference yesterday.
Every time the wooden doors of the office opened, the crowd burst into a frenzy, shouting “Chong Wei”, “Peng Soon”, “V Shem” and “Liu Ying”.
Armed with pens, notebooks, shirts and sporting memorabilia, the fans were determined to get their favourite Malaysian Olympians’ autographs.
So vehement was the crowd that the athletes had to be protected by a police escort.
The silver medallists bore the brunt from the screaming fans, but other athletes with less security like diver Nur Dhabitah Sabri were happy to snap selfies and sign autographs for fans.
Finance student How Kok Suan, however, managed to outsmart the cops by waiting for her prime target, national shuttler Datuk Lee Chong Wei while he was getting a medical check-up before asking him for an autograph.
“I am going to show this off to everyone!” said the 19-year-old, wildly waving her notebook with Chong Wei’s autograph in purple ink.
Her friends Ng Lee Yinn, 19, and Tan En Tong, 19, squealed in delight at the sight of men’s doubles player Tan Wee Kiong, and blocked him and even the police from leaving the complex until he penned his signature.
Tiny badminton fan Ammar Ahmad Safuan, 13, caught the eyes of silver medallists Goh Liu Ying and Chan Peng Soon and women’s badminton singes player Vivian Hoo, who signed his exercise book after touching down from Rio.
“I want to be a badminton player like them one day and make the country proud. I tried to ask them for advise but they didn’t have much time to talk to me. But look!” said the SMK Sains Alam Shah student who had already allocated pages in his book with the athletes’ names on them.
Medical student Sarveswary Devi Rajendram, 22, hoped Chong Wei would sign her notebook as an early birthday present to her.
She and her sister Maivizhi Selvi Rajendram, 24, who had waited at the complex since 12.30pm to greet the athletes, said having Chong Wei’s autograph would have been a “dream come true”.
“You always only see him on TV and then today he is right there. Oh my God I feel crazy,” said Sarveswary.
Behind the sisters was Teo Kai Yuan, 24, who came with Chong Wei’s autobiography Dare To Be A Champion, hoping the author would sign it.
“It would make my book complete. This is my first experience with any celebrity, so I would be very proud if he could take the time to sign,” said the fresh graduate, who said he hadn’t finished reading the autobiography, which he bought last year.
Holding his autograph-less shuttlecock tube, sales executive Jayce Fong was crestfallen when he found out that Chong Wei had left from the complex.
“I drove from Subang to meet him. What do I do now?” asked the 24-year-old.