Thursday, December 13, 2007

Karate exponents meet four-gold target after first day’s action

Golden farewell: Malaysian karate exponent R. Puvaneswaran slugging it out with Vietnam’s Pham Hoai Long in the men’s under 55kg category in Korat yesterday. Puvaneswaran bade farewell to the SEA Games by winning the gold medal.

KUMITE exponents R. Puvaneswaran and Lim Yoke Wai ensured that the Malaysian karate squad met the four-gold target set for them on just the opening day of the three-day competition at the Kebkanjana Hall in Korat yesterday.

Following the two opening victories in the kata individual events in the morning, it was the two Doha Asiad silver medallists’ turn to fight their way to the gold in the below 55kg and 65kg categories respectively.

The 33-year-old Puvaneswaran bade farewell to the SEA Games with a 6-2 victory over Vietnam’s Pham Hoai Long.

It was Hoai Long who made the stronger start, taking a 2-0 lead before the Malaysian veteran found his composure to outclass his opponent.

“In the Asian Championships final earlier this year, I had to go the full distance to beat Pham in sudden death. It was much easier this time around.

“Although I trailed 0-2, I did not panic and chose to bide my time. I won the bout purely on tactics and not skills,” said Puvaneswaran.

The Malaysian exponent, who has now won the SEA Games below 55kg gold medal four times (1999, 2001, 2005 and 2007), announced that he would now only take part in selected high-ranking tournaments, especially those on the European circuit.

Yoke Wai, who won two silvers and a bronze in three previous Games, finally landed the gold. The 26-year-old turned the tables on World Championships bronze medallist Donny Dharmawan of Indonesia in sudden death.

“When Donny forced the bout to go into sudden death on 2-2 in the last few seconds of normal time, I became upset. I was tired of always losing to him in the below 65kg competitions,” said Yoke Wai.

“It is always a 50-50 chance in sudden death and I took a huge risk by going on the offensive. I managed to land a punch on his face, and it ended my six-year wait for a SEA Games gold.”

Another Asian Championships gold medallist, A.Vasantha Marial, failed to live up to her top billing in the women’s below 48kg event.

Vasantha, who was down with flu upon arrival in Korat, was clearly not at her best and went down 0-1 to Vietnam’s Vu Thi Nguyen Anh in the semi-finals.

However, she picked herself up and won her next fight in the repechage to clinch a bronze.

G. Vathana also delivered a bronze in the women’s below 53kg event.

She missed out on a first SEA Games final appearance after going down 2-3 to Vietnam’s Dao Thi Tu Anh in the semi-finals.

With another 10 gold medals in kumite still to be contested today and tomorrow, the national karate exponents are on course to better their best haul of 7-5-4 achieved outside Malaysia during the 1999 Brunei Games.


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