KUALA LUMPUR: The National Sports Council (NSC) have challenged Malaysian gymnasts to bring back the glory days and start a new era when the 13th Junior Rhythmic Gymnastics Asian Championships begin on Friday.
There is a lot riding at the championships, which will be held at Stadium Putra in Bukit Jalil from Feb 21-24. Apart from the 24 medals (9-9-9) at stake, the competition will also double up as the 2014 Nanjing Youth Olympic Games (Aug 16-28) qualifiers.
“As first time hosts, let’s make it a memorable outing and get our gymnasts to the YOG. Competing against the best in Asia ... the standard will be high. It won’t be easy, but nothing is impossible,” said NSC director-general Datuk Seri Zolkples Embong at Tuesday’s flag-handing ceremony in Bukit Jalil.
He urged the gymnasts to use former greats – like 1989 SEA Games five-gold medallist Faiznur Miskin and 2010 Commonwealth Games gold medallist Elaine Koon – as inspiration.
“Look at the achievements of Faiznur, Durratun (Nashihin Rosli) and Elaine. It’s not impossible for rhythmic gymnastics to win an Olympic gold one day. Lee Wan Nin almost made it to the (London) Olympics (in 2012), but she got injured (knee) at the last-minute. I believe we can raise the standard (of gymnastics) to another level,” he said.
Only four gymnasts (one from each country) from the individual competition in Bukit Jalil will win a spot in Nanjing, while only the champions from the group exercise competition will be given the spot to represent Asia at the YOG.
With 16 countries competing, team manager Dr Farrah-Hani Imran said that competition is rife with the likes of powerhouses Kazakhstan, China, Japan and South Korea.
However, she believes that the gymnasts are more than capable of springing a surprise or two.
“Our target is simple ... to get at least one girl into the YOG. It’s not going to be easy, we know that. But we want all of them to just go out and do their best,” she said.
Wan Nin was the sole competitor in the inaugural YOG in Singapore in 2010, where she finished fourth in the all-around individual event.
The Malaysian squad
Individual: Olivia Tai Qing Tong, Shasangari Sivaneswary, Koh Sei Yan, Shak Yuki.
Group exercise: Thew Yue Jia, Chan Mei Thung, Adelian Theresa Mathews, Chai Xin Nong, Yap Sin Lu, Loh Xiao Tian.