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Sun, Aug 10, 2008
The Star
A passion for fast cars

By NURBAITI HAMDAN

PETALING JAYA, MALAYSIA: She looks like an ordinary girl-next-door but her achievements are anything but ordinary. At 18, Latifah Hamzah has achieved much more than her peers and her future is looking brighter by the day.

Latifah, or Hani as she is fondly known, will be attending the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on Thursday after scoring 45 points - the maximum score - in the International Baccalaureate (IB) examination in May.

With such an exceptional score, MIT was not the only university that offered to accept Hani - Yale, Princeton, Cambridge and Imperial College have also opened their doors.

Hani will be reading mechanical engineering in MIT, a subject that she is most passionate about.

"I am fascinated by anything that moves, be it trains, aeroplanes or cars, especially fast ones!" exclaimed the Ferrari F1 team fan who lives in SS3, Petaling Jaya.

So passionate is Hani about her favourite racing team that she did a presentation on Ferrari's data for her MIT admission interview.

"I compiled what was available of Ferrari's technical notes from all the races last season off the F1 website. I looked qualitatively and theoretically at how it improved the car's performance," she said.

Born to a Chinese mother and a Malay father, Hani's achievements did not come as a surprise to her close-knit family as she has been an outstanding student since young.

She scored 7As in Ujian Penilaian Sekolah Rendah (2001) in SJK (C) Puay Chai; she was a top scorer in the National Curriculum Tests 2003 in The Alice Smith School and obtained 13As for O-Levels in her boarding school, The Sevenoaks School, in England.

Hani is multiligual - she speaks English, Mandarin, Malay and French.

Despite the emphasis on academic excellence prevalent in our society, Hani has proven that one can excel in studies and still be a well-rounded individual.

She plays the violin and piano and music has taken her to many cities including Beijing, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Taipei as a member of the Asian Youth Orchestra.

Hani keeps fit by playing football and tennis as well as snorkelling. Being the outdoor person that she is, Hani has climbed Mount Kinabalu (although she had to stop at Laban Rata due to altitude sickness) and attended the Outward Bound School.

However, Hani, who was born in Subang, maintains that there is "nothing different" about her.

"I do not feel any different because of some stuff printed on some sheets of paper. Although it is nice that I got 45 points (for the IB exam), that doesn't mean I was any less capable before the exams.

"The achievements are nice to look at but it is no substitute for friends and family. Achievements have to be built on for them to really mean something," said the Kimi Raikkonen fan.

Asked about her dream job, she answered: "I want to be team principal of the Ferrari F1 team!"

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