|Christina Loh Yen Ling and Mohd Jironi Riduan with their mock cheques after winning the OCM Coca-Cola Olympian of the Year awards.|
The 19-year-old Penangite won the award courtesy of her two gold medals – in the 100m and 200m breaststroke events – at the Myanmar SEA Games last December.
Middle distance runner Mohd Jironi Riduan, who won the 800m and 1,500m in Myanmar, received the award in the male category.
Christina and Jironi of Sarawak each received RM10,000 and a medal.
Christina was thrilled to win her first national award.
“I never expected to win the Olympian award. It is a dream come true for me.
“Winning the award has inspired me to replace Olympian Siow Yi Ting as the top breaststroke swimmer in the country,” Christina said after receiving the award and mock cheque from Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) president Tunku Tan Sri Imran Tuanku Ja'afar.
Yi Ting, who featured in three Olympics – Sydney (2000), Athens (2004) and Beijing (2008) – retired last year.
Christina said that the pressure was on her to win gold medals in the SEA Games after Yi Ting's retirement.
“But I’m more than pleased with my performance ... and winning two golds in the Games.
“I also want to qualify for my second Commonwealth Games (in Glasgow in July) and also the Asian Games (in Incheon in September),” said Christina, who featured in the New Delhi Commonwealth as well as the Guangzhou Asian Games in 2010.
Christina, who is trained by coach Paul Birmingham, admitted that it would be challenging to surpass the qualifying mark.
“Both the Commonwealth and Asian Games times are faster than my personal best. So, I have to train much harder to beat the marks,” said Christina, who has personal bests of 1:10.25 and 2:32.56 in the 100m and 200m breaststroke events respectively.
The qualifying times for the Commonwealth Games are 1:09.25 and 2:28.48 in the 100m and 200m breaststroke respectively, which are the sixth placing times of the 2010 Games.
The qualifying mark for the Asian Games is 1:07.98 and 2:25.40, which is the third placing of the 2010 Games.
The 27-year-old Jironi said that winning his first national award was a great way to bid farewell to athletics.
“The Myanmar Games was my last Games and I did well to win two golds and also the Olympian award.
“I have switched my focus now to the marathon,” said Jironi.