KUALA LUMPUR: Mohd Naufal Shahrul Afzam (pic) hopes to vault into the history books.

The 18-year-old wants to become the first Malaysian to qualify for the Olympic Games pole vault event in Paris (2024).

His journey started five years ago when Iskandar Alwi, his fellow Johorean, told the then 13-year-old Naufal to take up pole vaulting.

That he did and in three years, at the age of 16, Naufal soared over 4.5m to win the 2018 Sukma (Malaysia Games) gold medal in Ipoh, Perak.

Naufal, coached by teacher Muztafa Kamal at the SMK Tun Hussein Onn in Kluang since 2015, has been making steady progress ever since the advice from Iskandar, the current national pole vault champion.

Last year, he did a personal best of 4.6m to bag gold in the Asean School Games in Semarang, Indonesia.

In the Perak All-Comers in Ipoh in March, he cleared 4.7m for the gold medal.

Naufal is currently Malaysia’s second best men’s pole vaulter after Iskandar, who holds the national record of 5.31m.

With time on his side, Naufal believes making it to the Olympics is not impossible.

“I just need to train harder and keeping believing in myself that I can do it. I have shown progress in competitions in the last three years but I am still not pleased with my efforts.

“Pole vault is a technical event. I need to work on this aspect to jump higher. My run-up for the jump is still not fast enough, ” said Naufal.

“I will continue to work on these two things and my aim this year is to hit the five-metre barrier.

“I had a good start in the Perak All-Comers by doing a personal best and wanted to further improve my efforts in Sukma (Malaysia Games) in Johor in July but the Games have been postponed to next year due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

“My outdoor training has been affected due to the movement control order (MCO) since March 18 but I hope to resume training by next month.

“I am also looking forward to compete in the Malaysian Open in Bukit Jalil, which is scheduled from Sept 4-7, ” said Naufal.

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