KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia has hit the ground running at the SEA Games by winning seven gold medals.
Buoyed by the great headstart, expect the national athletes to keep the momentum going and soar even beyond the 111-gold medal target when the biennial Games involving 11 nations officially begins today in Kuala Lumpur.
The seven golds came through chinlone (one), archery (three), synchronised swimming (one) and open water swimming (two).
And Malaysia is shaping up superbly in football, too.
The national Under-23 team already has one leg in the semifinals of the football competition, thanks to the inspiring performances of Datuk Ong Kim Swee’s boys in matches against Brunei and Singapore.
So far, things are looking good and rosy and Malaysia’s chef de mission Datuk Marina Chin is quietly confident that Malaysia will enjoy its best ever showing on home soil.
Malaysia is hoping to be the overall champion for only the second time since the Games’ inception in 1959.
The only time it managed to outplay Thailand and Indonesia to take the top spot was at the 2001 SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur. Then, Malaysia won 111 gold medals, too.
It will be a perfect gift for the nation celebrating its 60th Independence Day on Aug 31.
Marina is happy with the positive start and team unity. She made sure all medal winners were greeted with thunderous applause when they returned to the hotel.
“So far, so good. The athletes are delivering the goods and it has inspired others. The contingent is all pumped up to make Malaysia proud,” said Marina.
Today, three world champions – Azizulhasni Awang (cycling), Cheong Jun Hoong (diving) and Mohd Al-Jufferi Jamari (silat) – will lead the 845-member Malaysian contingent as the flag-bearers during the march past.
Azizul, Jun Hoong and Mohd Al-Jufferi are expected to set their sports ablaze by living up to their world class status.
Seven former, current and future stars – Kenny Ang (bowling), Datuk Ng Joo Ngan (cycling), Datuk Mirnawan Nawawi (hockey), Zaki Sadri (athletics), Datuk Razif Sidek (badminton), and divers Bryan Nickson Lomas, Pandelela Rinong and Nur Dhabitah Sabri – will be the torch-bearers in today’s opening ceremony of the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games (KL2017).
Said Mirnawan: “It’s a proud moment for me and all other legends. This is a recognition for hockey. I hope the athletes will be fired up to defy odds at the home Games.”
The total number of gold medals up for grabs is 405 in 38 sports but one of the main highlights will be athletics.
All eyes will be on ace sprinter Khairul Hafiz Jantan. Can he end the long wait for a men’s 100m champion in record style?
His main challengers will be defending champion Eric Shauwn Cray of the Philippines and Yaspi Boby of Indonesia.
Malaysia can also look forward to a golden harvest in bowling, squash, gymnastics, cycling, shooting, lawn bowls, karate, diving and badminton, to name just a few.
See our full coverage of SEA Games 2017