by BERNAMA/ pic by BERNAMA
MANILA • As defending champions, Malaysia are entering the 30th SEA Games with a target of winning 70 gold, 51 silver and 105 bronze medals in 52 of the 56 sports in the biennial games here.
The target may pale in comparison to their achievements at the 2017 Kuala Lumpur (KL) SEA Games, but it is realistic and if met will be their best ever haul outside of KL.
Malaysians and other parties with interests in the Malaysian sports industry will definitely be rooting for the national contingent to surpass Malaysia’s performance at the 2007 Korat Games in Thailand, where Malaysia won 68 gold, 52 silver and 96 medals from 39 sports they participated in, their best as non-hosts so far.
Malaysia’s chef de mission Datuk Megat Zulkarnain Omardin (picture), his two deputies Nurul Huda Abdullah and Ahmad Faedzal Md Ramli, 773 athletes and 339 officials will be staying at three clusters — Manila, Clark and Subic — during the games from Saturday to Dec 11.
A total of 396 of the athletes are making their debut in the games, reflecting Malaysia’s seriousness in nurturing talents for bigger competitions, including the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games.
Team sports like men’s football, netball, floorball and polo have begun in Manila, and men’s water polo at the New Clark City Aquatics Centre, about 90km from Manila, ahead of the opening ceremony for the games on Saturday.
Although several quarters, including former National Sports Council DG Datuk Seri Zolkples Embong, have criticised the 70-gold target as too low, the national contingent are being realistic given the fact that events in sports like pencak silat, diving and archery, which are considered “gold mines” for Malaysia, have been slashed.
The Philippines’ decision to introduce new sports like underwater hockey, sambo, kurash and arnis, as well as dropping core sports such as track cycling and field hockey is a common practice by host nations to boost their chances of winning gold medals.
In acknowledging this, Megat Zulkarnain is optimistic of meeting the 70-gold target, with the golds expected to come mainly from athletics, rhythmic gymnastics, archery, lawn bowls and new sports like eSports and obstacle sports.
“True, the target is only two gold medals more than in Korat 2007, although the number of athletes has increased. However, we should bear in mind that many athletes are making their debut at international games,” said Megat Zulkarnain.
Malaysia won 145 gold, 92 silver and 86 bronze medals from 38 sports at the last games in KL to emerge overall champions.