Ex-squash star Azlan Iskandar, kids roll to glory in Southeast Asia BJJ meet

From wall basher to rolling on the mat, that is the transition former Malaysian squash star Azlan Iskandar (main image, blue Gi) has made since retiring from the sport in 2012.

And it has been an inspiring second lease of life for the 41-year-old.

Azlan, who picked up Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) about a year ago, emerged champion at the Southeast Asia Open at the Far East Plaza in Singapore over the weekend.

Azlan, Squash Racquets Association of Malaysia’s deputy president, won the Master 2 (Male Gi; white 36+) 76.1-82.3kg category.

However, it didn’t stop there as Azlan’s three children – Zara Aaliya (aged nine; main image third from right), Ava Aaliya (seven; main image right) and Luca Iskandar (five; main image left) – also won honours.

Zara won the white 36.4-39.4kg category, while Ava won the white 22-25.1kg category. Luca, meanwhile, was second in the white 21.1-24kg category.

This was Azlan’s first competitive outing after retiring from squash, and it is one he will never forget.

“I’ve done a couple of triathlon races, but nothing competitive like this. It feels good,” said Azlan this morning.

“When I left squash, it took me some time to return to the competitive mode. When you have kids, and a family to raise, that becomes the priority.

“But it looks like Zara, Ava, and Luca are zooming into BJJ. I want to grow up with them through this sport.”

All four trained with Monarchy MMA’s instructors, Mehdi Bagheri and Diego Vargas. Bagheri (main image, standing behind participants) was in Singapore to support the team.

Lilyanne Hedger and Max Hedger, the other participants from Monarchy MMA, finished third in their categories – Born in 2012-2013, Grey, 33.3kg-36.3kg; and Born in 2014-2015, Grey, 27.3-30.3kg – respectively.

Azlan said he and his children are bent on fulfilling their goals in more competitions.

“It’s a massive scene, BJJ is active and there are many competitions,” said Azlan.

Having served the nation as an athlete and now a sports administrator, the businessman stressed that cultivating a sporting environment begins at home.

“It’s so easy to sit in the virtual world. It takes a whole lot of commitment and dedication to be out there, playing something actively. My children train four to five days a week. They have been quite full on. It’s the same with the other children.

“Sport is all about that, getting out and doing it. And for me, it’s about doing it (BJJ) with the children. I want to enjoy the bond and grow up with them through the sport. We are all white belts now and will eventually graduate together.”

Azlan credited his wife, Ung Yiu Lin, for being sporting and supportive.

“Hey, if I’m not sending the children (for training), she’s doing it. She’s super supportive of the kids and makes sure everything is in order. I feel like I’m running a mini sports team (laughs),” added Azlan.

Azlan admitted that having a supportive ecosystem is key to building a sporting nation. He also added that it’s never too late to pick up sports.

“I’m 41, and I’m doing it. But it’s not about me. It’s about my children and the maximum outcome I can have for myself while being there for my kids, so that they can be inspired, and I can be inspired by them.

“I don’t want to be that parent shouting from the sidelines. I want to be part of their journey and create memories together,” he added.

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