Friday, November 23, 2007

Battle for second spot heats up

THE race is on for the runners-up spot in the Sea Games overall medal tally with hosts Thailand almost certain to take top spot.

Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam will be involved in a keen battle for gold medals with Malaysia as all four countries look to clinch second place in the medals table.

Thailand are looking at a haul of 150 gold medals with the bulk coming from athletics (a target of 15), shooting (12), boxing (10), Muay Thai (10), aquatics (eight), gymnastics (seven), rowing (seven) and sepak takraw (six).

The Philippines came out tops when they hosted the Games in Manila two years ago with 113 gold but have set a modest 70-gold target this time around, while Vietnam (70), Indonesia (64) and Malaysia (62) have ambitions of either matching or improving on their 2005 performance.

Singapore, who are sending a contingent of 424 athletes with 45 per cent of them aged 21 and below, have targeted 35-45 gold medals while Myanmar's prediction is not known.
Laos, Cambodia, Brunei and Timor Leste, the other countries in the Games, are not expected to win more than 10 gold between them.

Although Malaysia have yet to set an official gold medal target, Sports Minister Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said has made it clear that only an improvement on the 61-gold haul in Manila will the Korat Sea Games be considered a successful Malaysian outing.

However, National Sports Council director-general Datuk Zolkples Embong, while welcoming the challenge, is keeping his cards close to his chest where the medal target is concerned.

"I will only announce an official target closer to the Games because anything might happen between now and then in terms of injuries and loss of form. We have to take these factors into account or else we would be revising our target almost everyday," he said in Bukit Jalil last week.

However, Zolkples said the aim of bettering Malaysia's Manila haul, the nation's best in a Games held on foreign soil, remains.

"If you really must know, then our target would be 62 gold medals," he said in jest.

Even if Malaysia were to get 62 gold medals, it may only be enough for fifth place in the overall medal tally if the other countries' medal projections pan out, one spot lower than in Manila.

New Straits Times

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