Sabah's Vellenda Agustine (centre) will be competing in the women’s karate individual kata at Sukma.
KANGAR: Sabah's hopes of landing their first gold medal at the 17th Malaysia Games (Sukma) rests on the young shoulders of Vellenda Agustine.
The 17-year-old debutant will be competing in the women’s karate individual kata at the Sri Kayangan Hall at the Perlis Matriculation College in Arau on Saturday.
“I feel the pressure, especially to deliver the gold, but I believe in myself and I’ll try my best. My main focus is on getting into the finals first,” said Vellenda.
The Form Five student from SM Chung Hwa in Tenom began training in the discipline at the age of eight and joined the state team at 14.
Her biggest achievement to date is landing the gold medal in the girls’ junior individual kata (16-17 years old) and a bronze in the women’s team kata (14-17 years old) at the National Junior Cadet and Under-21 Karate Championships at the Negri Sports Complex in Seremban in March.
However, the soft-spoken Kadazan has not let any of her recent success get to her as she remains focused on keeping her head down and simply working hard.
“I haven’t really thought so far ahead. I just want to train hard and be good at what I do. Whatever comes as a result is a bonus,” added Vellenda.
Besides Vellenda, the other Sabahans in the the women’s kata event are Petrina Saidin and Gloria Ho, while Eric Lo, Reginald Alexander and Eienstein Majanil will feature in the men’s kata.
Sabah are hoping to pack more punch at the Games after enlisting the help of national kata exponent and 2012 Karate 1 World Cup champion Ricky Leong, also a Sabahan.
“Penang are the team to beat. They’re very strong ... I know because I train with them. But I think we’ve got capable exponents. If we reach the finals, it could go either way,” said Ricky, a two-time SEA Games bronze medallist.
Sabah’s head coach Julian Chin if optimistic that Vellenda will do well.
“Vellenda has a lot of potential and the unique thing about karate is that there is always a possibility of a surprise. Sometimes, an exponent can spring a surprise and deliver the gold. So, we just hope that our exponents will step up and surprise us,” said Julian.
The other six gold medals up for grabs are: men’s individual kata, men’s kumite (-55kg, -60kg, -67kg) and women’s kumite (-45kg, -50kg).