Thursday, September 27, 2007

Athletics: Shahidan targets more than 10

Ngew Sin Mei is expected to deliver a gold medal in the women’s triple jump event in the upcoming Korat games.
Ngew Sin Mei is expected to deliver a gold medal in the women’s triple jump event in the upcoming Korat games.

THE Malaysian Amateur Athletics Union (MAAU) is hopeful of improving on its eight gold-haul at the Korat Sea Games on Dec 6-15 after the Olympic Council of Malaysia approved a huge contingent of 52 track and field athletes.

They will compete in 35 of the 45 events on the athletics programme, falling short of MAAU president Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim's ambitious target of having a Malaysian competing in every event in Korat.

But realistically only a handful are gold medal prospects with 17 athletes having qualified on merit while the rest will be heading to Korat for development and exposure purposes.

MAAU has set a 10-gold target but Shahidan has challenged the athletes to surpass that target in what would be MAAU's most successful Sea Games since the 12-gold haul in Brunei in 1999.

MAAU vice president Karim Ibrahim said athletes who did not meet the qualifying mark were selected based on their performance throughout the year and their potential to excel in the future.
“We went through each athlete's case in detail. We are sending a number of junior and promising athletes as we believe the Sea Games offer a perfect opportunity to expose them,” he said.

Karim said Malaysia will be unrepresented in the men's 5,000m, 10,000m, javelin, discuss and hammer and the women's 3,000m steeplechase, javelin, shot put, heptathlon and marathon.

“We are looking at winning 10 gold medals which we believe is within our reach. But our president has challenged the athletes to go higher than 10 gold,” he said.

MAAU has yet to decide who will run the men's sprints and relays, which will only be known after the MAAU-NSC All-Comers Meet on Nov 12-13 at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil, but national junior champion Zabidi Ahmad is a certainty having clocked 10.51s, the best time by a Malaysian in the 100m this year.

Among the 10 athletes included in Category B, men's 200m runner S. Narendran, S. Vikram (3,000m steeplechase) and women's walker Yap Kwee Kee will have to improve on their times at the Thai Open next month to be confirmed.

Seven of the eight gold medallists at the 2005 Games in Manila - Robani Hassan (men's 110m hurdles), Mohd Shahrulhaizy Abdul Rahman (men's 20km walk), Moh Siew Wei (women's 100m hurdles), Roslinda Samsu (women's pole vault), Ngew Sin Mei (women's triple jump), Siti Shahida Abdullah (women's hammer throw), and Yuan Yufang (women's 20km walk) - are expected to repeat their feats in Korat.

Shahadan Jamaludin, who was a surprise winner in the men's 400m hurdles in 2005, has been in poor form this season but Asian high jump champion Lee Hup Wei is another hot favourite to win gold.

MAAU is also banking on the men's 4x400m and either K. Amran Raj or Zaiful Zainal Abidin in the one-lap sprint to win gold while there could be a surprise from dark horse Josbert Tinus (men's long jump).

Hurdler Robani's place in the squad is dependent on his recovery from a hamstring injury with Muhd Faiz Muhammad on stand-by as a replacement.

With home-ground advantage, Thailand are expected to improve significantly on the 11-gold haul in Manila and dominate the men's and women's sprints, leaving Malaysia and the Philippines to duel for second in the athletics medal tally.

New Straits Times

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