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Wednesday September 4, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Wednesday September 4, 2013 MYT 1:51:05 PM
by ronnie oh
Simply magnificent: Malaysian team coach Miho Iwamoto (holding Cup) and her golden girls (from left) Thian, Tan, Nurlin, Aimi, Lee and Looi are all smiles after being crowned champions in the team event.
THE sport kendo may have been popularised by the Japanese but Malaysian enthusiasts managed to brave the odds and steal the glitter in the Asean region.
That came in the wake of Malaysia’s decision to host the 10th Asean Kendo championship which ended at Universiti Sains Malaysia in Penang recently.
With the two-day challenge attracting more than 200 participants from eight countries – Malaysia, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam – hosts Malaysia battled their way to a sensational double finish.
And it was the women exponents who stole the limelight.
They powered their way to a double gold by emerging Asean Women’s Individual and Inter-Team champions.
Despite the presence of renowned players from Singapore, Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand, Malaysian representative Aimi Mohammad Sabri remained unfazed to emerge as the toast of the local contingent.
The 25-year-old exponent, a bank employee by profession, brought the Malaysian fans to their feet when she displayed her kendo skills to near perfection.
Her effort first landed her the Individual crown, beating teammate Nurlin Amirudin in an all-Malaysian final showdown.
Together with four other teammates, Lee Yan-Ying, Looi Yeen May, Tan Sioh-Yang and Mimi Thian, they marched out as champions in the Inter-Team event as well.
The two-gold feat was enough to earn Malaysia their best ever finish in the Asean championship.
But what is the secret that makes Aimi tick in this Japanese dominated sport?
“It’s not a big secret actually,” said an excited Aimi following her record finish on the final day of the kendo challenge.
“It is the influential way of my mother Minako Okuno.
“Being a Japanese, it was only natural she commanded that special desire for me to take up the sport seriously.
“Besides kendo is also a form of martial arts which helps me to protect myself in any eventuality. It is also a sport which helps to discipline an athlete,” she said.
“In fact, I was only nine-years-old when my mum persuaded me to take up the sport. She took me to the Japanese Club in Kuala Lumpur to witness the sport as well as to go through some training.
“I found it to be a great event and my fast growing interest saw me taking up kendo seriously,” she added.
Crowned the Individual champ when Thailand hosted the 8th Asean Challenge in Bangkok in 2007, Aimi added that she failed to defend her crown when Singapore took over the hosting job in 2010.
The eldest in a family of four siblings, Aimi crashed out in the quarter-finals after losing to eventual champion Daphine Wong of Singapore.
That drove her to put in the little extra in her training and with Malaysia handed the hosting job for the fifth time, her efforts paid dividends.
Aimi is now looking forward to doing well in the World Championship, a challenge she has found to be her biggest hurdle in her kendo career.
“Although I had featured in three World championships, the last in Italy last year, it‘s still my toughest hurdle.
“I had to battle both the Japanese and Koreans exponents,” said Aimi, who is hoping the double victory in Penang could inspire her to be better in her next World Championship bid.
Nurlin, 27, was equally elated to be able to contribute to Malaysia’s success in the Team event.
However, she admitted being disappointed with her slip-up in the Individual final.
An executive with Sime Darby, Nurlin, who had just completed a two-and-a-half year stint in China, said she was hoping to land the individual crown as well, since her clash with Aimi had always been a close affair.
“I was confident I could get the better of Aimi when we trooped in for the final showdown. But it was just unfortunate that I was outpointed on the day.
“What made it harder for me in the final bout was having a very close friend as an opponent,” said Nurlin.
For Nurlin, her biggest consolation was playing a positive role in helping Malaysia to a golden finish in the team event.
The men also recorded notable successes to make it to the last four. But despite their ‘A’ outfit progressing to the final, they managed only a silver, going down to Singapore ‘A’ who emerged the eventual winners.
The Malaysians, however, still managed to cap their moments of glory when they were bestowed the Team Fighting Spirit award in the two-day challenge.
Women, Individual: 1. Aimi Mohammad Sabri (Mas); 2. Nurlin Amirudin (Mas); 3. Daphne Wong (Sin), Grace Lim (Sin).
Team: 1. Malaysia ‘A’; 2. Singapore ‘A’; 3. Singapore ‘B’, Thailand ‘A’.
Men, Individual: 1. Masayoshi Shii (Tha); 2. Trung Hieu Tran (Viet); 3. Tuan Anh Dao (Viet), Razak Wong (Mas).
Team: 1. Singapore ‘A’; 2. Malaysia ‘A’; 3. Indonesia ‘A’, Malaysia ‘B’.
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