16 Times Everyday Malaysians Made Us Proud With Their Achievements In 2019

From being on 'Shark Tank' to breaking world records, our fellow Malaysians took the world by storm in 2019.

Cover image via Instagram @_juliangan_ , Bryan Richter/UW-Madison News , Amber Leong (Provided to SAYS)

Our Malaysian athletes have put in great work in 2019 to make our nation proud

After badminton legend Datuk Lee Chong Wei retired in June 2019, The BrandLaureate Book Of World Records held a ceremony to recognise him as the only badminton legend to hold the World #1 Ranking for 348 weeks.

Meanwhile, Sarawakian para-athlete Bonnie Bunyau Gustin broke a world record - which he also set in 2018 - at the World Para Powerlifting Championship in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, where he picked up two golds.

Bonnie Bunyau Gustin.

Image via Bernama

During the 2019 Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games), our athletes also brought home historic wins we should be proud of:

- Malaysia's first e-sports gold medal was won by Dr Yew Weng Kean, who holds a PhD in electrical engineering,
- Malaysia's first gold medal in men's rapid chess was brought home by international master Yeoh Li Tian,
- Lego Sam Jee Lek became the first-ever SEA Games gold medallist in breakdancing as the dance type was only introduced as an event this year, and
- Shuttler Kisona Selvaduray delivered a stunning gold medal win in the badminton women's singles.

While our beloved athletes have made us proud, there were also a number of everyday Malaysians who achieved great feats in various fields.

Here are some of them:

1. Scientist Dr Magaret Sivapragasam was included in an international 'Periodic Table of Younger Chemists'

Dr Margaret Sivapragasam.

Image via IUPAC

As part of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry's (IUPAC) 100th anniversary celebrations, the international organisation collaborated with the International Younger Chemists Network (IYCN) to create the 'Periodic Table of Younger Chemists'.

Dr Margaret was included in the group of 118 young chemists who embody the mission and core values of IUPAC, highlighting the diversity in careers, creativity, and dedication.

A Universiti Teknologi Petronas (UTP) postdoctoral research scientist working at the Centre of Research Ionic Liquids, she has won multiple awards and honours in the past for her incredible body of work in science, and has represented Malaysia as a young scientist in many international conferences speaking on her research in ionic liquids.

One of her projects, which involved the removal of dye from industrial wastewater produced by the batik-dyeing industry in Malaysia, won her several awards including Stage Two of the Shell Ideas 360 Innovators Challenge and an honourable mention in the Yale University Green Chemistry Challenge, according to a Bernama report.

2. Yaashwin Sarawanan, affectionately known as the Malaysian "human calculator", placed second in the finals of Asia's Got Talent 2019

A video of the SMK Bandar Tun Hussein Onn 2 student's appearance on the show went viral earlier in the year, and he managed to nab second place in the competition.

For the 'Back to Skool' themed closing performance, the 15-year-old improvised an act called 'The Calendar Problem', where he attempted to identify the exact day of a particular date, month, and year in the calendar.

Yaashwin asked the judges - David Foster, Anggun Cipta Sasmi, and Jay Park - and the show's hosts Alan and Justin to participate in his act.

The "human calculator" was asked to name the days Foster received his first Grammy Award, Anggun had her first daughter, and Jay Park's father was born.

The judges and audience cheered as he succeeded in determining the day of each event.

3. Public Service Department (JPA) scholar Muhamad Saiful Hakimi Daud was the first Malaysian to receive Pennsylvania State University's highest engineering honour

Muhamad Saiful Hakimi Daud (centre) and his parents.

Image via Jabatan Perkhidmatan Awam/Facebook

The Sungai Petani, Kedah native achieved a Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA) of 4.0 while pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Petroleum and Natural Gas Engineering, with a Minor in Energy Business and Finance degree at Pennsylvania State University.

His considerable academic achievements and strong leadership skills resulted in him being awarded the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences' Engineering Honor Marshal.

4. Three primary school children from SK Stella Maris in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah won a gold medal for their viral 'Nambuyunan' performance at Dance World Cup 2019

Persembahan dari Sk Stella Maris (M), Tanjung Aru, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah di World Dance Cup 2019, Braga Portugal dan dinobatkan sebagai Juara (Pingat Emas) bg kategori Children Duet / Trio National & Folklore Dance ...

Posted by Tom Sham on Thursday, 4 July 2019

The trio, which is made up of 10-year-old Ahmad Mikhail Damsal and 12-year-olds Muhammad Fakhrul Afif and Oscar Neil, clinched a gold medal under the 'Children Duet/Trio National and Folklore Dance' category at the Dance World Cup 2019.

A video of the team's performance went viral on Facebook, garnering over thousands of shares and comments of praise. They were later invited by DiverseCity to perform their award-winning dance at the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) auditorium.

5. The three Malaysian filmmakers who bagged a bronze medal at the Cannes Gold Lion 2019 Award for a series of Public Service Announcement (PSA) videos

A joint effort between filmmakers Nadiah Hamzah, Syed Madnuh, and Emir Ezwan resulted in a bronze medal at the Cannes Gold Lion 2019 Award for a series of Public Service Announcement (PSA) videos.

Working with creative agency Leo Burnett Malaysia, each of them directed segments in a nearly three-minute-long video for NGO Voice of the Children which follows three young Malaysians as they are being bullied and physically assaulted by peers at school.

As they attempt to escape their bullies, the victims break the fourth wall and plead to viewers to take action rather than merely "like or share".

A message appears at the end of all three videos: "Likes and shares don't end bullying. Learning how to help a victim does."

6. Emir Haady Imran Zulharnain became the youngest person ever to enroll at the Royal College of Surgeons (RCSI) in Dublin, Ireland

Image via theSundaily

In September, 16-year-old Emir Haady Imran Zulharnain began his academic year at the Royal College of Surgeons (RCSI) in Dublin, Ireland.

Emir revealed to theSundaily that he completed his UK International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) examination at the tender age of 14.

He sat for his A-levels at 15 years old, obtaining an A for Chemistry and Math, and an A* for Physics.

"The heart just fascinates me – how it works – and I just want to do what I love which is to become a heart surgeon," he said.

7. The Sri Dasmesh Pipe Band won multiple awards and emerged World Champions at the World Pipe Band Championship

Image via Asia Samachar

The Sri Dasmesh Pipe Band was named category champions of Grade 4B at the World Pipe Band Championship in Glasgow, Scotland, beating out 12 other countries.

The band also won awards in the drumming and best parade categories.

Pipe leader Tirath Singh, who is also the band's leader, said they went through over a year of tireless practice to prepare for this competition. They met three times a week for two hours or more each session at the Sri Dasmesh International School in Kuala Lumpur.

8. Entreprenuer Amber Leong clinched RM3.36 million on 'Shark Tank' for her desktop light therapy lamps business

Chew Kin Mun and Amber Leong.

Image via Amber Leong (Provided to SAYS)

Leong hails from Salak South, Kuala Lumpur and went to the United States after receiving her diploma from Tunku Abdul Rahman College.

A few years ago, she decided to quit her corporate job and start a light therapy lamp business called Circadian Optics with her co-founder and husband, Chew Kin Mun.

She became the first Malaysian to be featured on the hit American entrepreneurial reality TV series 'Shark Tank', where she managed to land a USD800,000 (RM3.36 million) deal with the ABC programme's two prominent investors, Mark Cuban and Lori Greiner, in exchange for a 20% stake in her company.

9. Scientist Prof Dr Serena Nik-Zainal was honoured with an award originally known as the 'Nobel Prize For Cancer Research'

Dr Serena speaking at a Global Cambridge event in Kuala Lumpur in June.

Image via The Edge Markets

Dr Serena, who is based in the United Kingdom, was awarded the Dr Josef Steiner Cancer Research Prize 2019 for her breakthrough research in cancer genome interpretation for use in clinical practice.

Her research at Cambridge University in collaboration with two of her colleagues, Dr Paul Calleja and Dr Ignacio Medina, shows how cancer tumour mutations can be studied using new bioinformatic methods, making way for new approaches in targeted cancer therapies.

"The powerful combination of computational analytics and experimental insights helped to drive the development of clinical computational tools to interpret whole cancer genomes more effectively," Dr Serena was quoted as saying by Today Online.

10. 17-year-old Julian Wen-Sheng Gan was the first Malaysian to have graced the finals of the Genée International Ballet competition

Julian Wen-Sheng Gan (fourth from left).

Image via Dance Dispatches

Gan practised day and night for the prestigious competition, and not only was he the first Malaysian to ever reach its final round, but he also won a silver medal and Margot Fonteyn Audience Choice Award.

While his hard work and determination is admirable, it was his strength in grief that moved the hearts of Malaysians. A month prior to the competition, Gan's father passed away due to pancreatic cancer.

In an interview with The Star, he said, "Throughout the competition and even now, I would have flashes of him, memories or certain things that reminded me of him."

11. Malaysian Medical Relief Society (MERCY Malaysia) founder Tan Sri Dr Jemilah Mahmood was the first Malaysian to receive the ASEAN Prize

Image via Merdeka Award

The ASEAN Prize is a prestigious regional award which aims to acknowledge the inspiring and outstanding achievements of an individual or organisation who have significantly contributed to ASEAN community-building efforts.

Dr Jemilah started MERCY Malaysia, which is the country's first medical charity, to provide volunteer medical and health services when war tore through the Balkan state of Kosovo in 1999.

She personally led missions and development programmes in many parts of ASEAN, such as Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, and the Philippines.

Under her guidance, MERCY Malaysia became the first NGO in Asia to be internationally-certified for humanitarian accountability in 2007.

An obstetrician and gynaecologist by training, Dr Jemilah continued saving lives despite being shot during a mission and was temporarily kidnapped in 2003 while travelling as part of a convoy providing medical aid during the Iraq War.

12. Nurul Ezzaty Hasbullah was awarded the oldest international scholarship programme in the world, the Rhodes Scholarship

The 23-year-old student at student at the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) was awarded the reputable Rhodes Scholarship to continue her studies at the University of Oxford.

Nurul Ezzaty will be pursuing a Master's in social data science followed by a Master's in public policy starting next year. She is only the fifth Malaysian to be awarded with the scholarship.

Established in 1903, the Rhodes Scholarship is the oldest international scholarship programme in the world, aiming to develop future leaders through postgraduate studies at the University of Oxford.

The scholarship is highly competitive and provides all expenses for up to four years of study at the prestigious university.

13. Arinna Erin Wira modelling Nike's first modest swimwear

Arinna Erin Wira.

Image via Nike

The Master of Science in Business Intelligence and Social Media graduate of Brunel University in London was among a group of four models selected to model the new Nike Victory Swim collection.

According to a statement, the Nike Victory Swim collection will allow Muslim and body-conscious women to choose from a full-body swimsuit or individual pieces including a swimming hijab, a tunic top, and leggings.

Signed with BAME Models and living in the United Kingdom (UK), Arinna advocates for inclusive-fashion who enjoys swimming for pleasure.

Speaking about the modest swimwear, the Malaysian model said, "What I first noticed when I went swimming in this outfit was that my hijab stayed on. It was intact and did not come up at all."

14. University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison) graduate Lisa Kamal inspiring a crowd of 7,000 with her convocation speech

Lisa Kamal.

Image via Bryan Richter/UW-Madison News

In 2016, Lisa Kamal left Malaysia to the United States on a Petronas scholarship to pursue her dream of studying in a college there, as her parents did.

More than 9,000 miles from home and four years later, she was given the honour to be the student speaker on behalf of the graduating class at their commencement ceremony.

Her convocation address to a crowd of 7,000 attendees, in which she also quoted lines from Broadway musical 'Hamilton', soon went viral.

Lisa was also awarded a 2019 Hilldale Undergraduate Research Fellowship, the university's top research grant, to pursue her studies in electron microprobe analysis.

15. Six secondary school students set a new record at the International Junior Science Olympiad (IJSO)

The 15-year-old students were Amelia Jade Mae-Xian Lim (Wesley Methodist School), Chin Jia Yao (Chong Hwa Independent High School), Tay Yi Cong (Chong Hwa Independent High School), Haris Dani Erwin Dani (PERMATApintar National Gifted Centre), Imran Adham Azmin (PERMATApintar National Gifted Centre), and Lai Bo Wei (SMJK Chung Ling).

Selected from among 104 gold medal winners at the Malaysian Junior Science Olympiad (MyJSO), the team went on to score a record one silver and five bronze medals at the 16th IJSO 2019 in Doha, Qatar.

16. Junior doctor Farah Roslan invented the UK's first disposable sterile hijabs

Farah Roslan (left) and her mentor, consultant surgeon Gill Tierney.

Image via University Hospitals of Derby and Burton/BBC

According to BBC, Farah said this brainchild came following infection concerns related to her hijab which she had been wearing for a whole day in Royal Derby Hospital.

"I'd been using [the same headscarf] all day which obviously wasn't clean and ideal," she told BBC Radio Derby.

"I didn't feel comfortable taking it off and I was pulled out from the theatre, respectfully, due to infection control."

Therefore, she said a middle ground had to be found between "dress code due to faith" and the "passion of being in the operating theatre".

Several young Malaysians have also won awards for their innovative inventions:

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