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Thursday August 4, 2011

Top athletes can help Malaysia in medal chance at Universiade

PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia have not won more than one medal at the World University Games but hopes are high that the inclusion of some of the country’s top athletes will change all that in Shenzhen, China, this time.

The best-ever achievement for the nation was when Che Chew Chan bagged a silver medal in the women’s below 72kg taekwondo event at the 2007 edition of the Games in Bangkok.

Malaysia did not compete at the previous edition in Serbia two years ago due to the H1N1 epidemic.

Despite the absence of Guangzhou Asian Games track cycling gold medallist Azizulhasni Awang, the Higher Education Ministry are main­taining a one gold, one silver and one bronze medal target for the 174-strong Malay­sian contingent heading to the Games in Shenzhen from Aug 13-24. Malaysia are competing in 13 of the 22 sports contested at the Games.

The Games, also known as Universiade, have attracted participation from 180 countries and comprising many world and Olympic medal winners.

Over to you: Footballer Bunyamin Umar (right) receiving the national flag from Higher Education Deputy Minister Dr Hou Kok Chung at the flag-handing ceremony for the World University Games in Shenzhen at Putrajaya Wednesday.

Chef-de-mission Prof Dr Shaharudin Abdul Aziz conceded that it would be difficult to win a gold medal in the absence of Azizul from the cycling squad.

He is counting on the divers, archers and shooters to deliver the goods.

Cycling coach John Beasley felt that Azizul still lacked the speed to contend for medals in such a big competition although he has fully recovered from the calf injury he sustained in the final World Cup leg in Manchester in February.

“There are going to be many world class athletes at the Games and it won’t be easy to be among the medals but we have a chance,” said Dr Shaharudin, who is also the Malaysian Universities Sports Council (Masum) president.

“Some of our best athletes are in the team this time and they are already medal winners at the Commonwealth and Asian Games.

“We are hoping that athletes from diving, archery or shooting can pull off a big upset and win Malaysia’s first gold medal this time.”

National elite athletes Pandelela Rinong, Bryan Nickson Lomas, Leong Mun Yee (diving); Cheng Chu Sian, Wan Khalmizam Wan Abdul Aziz (archery); Joseline Cheah, Nur Ayuni Farhana (shooting) are among those expected to challenge for honours in Shenzhen.

Malaysia also have shuttlers Julia Wong, Loh Wei Sheng and Asian junior champion Zulfadli Zulkifli in badminton.

Shaharudin also dispelled fears that the event, held during the fasting month, would have a adverse effect on the performance of Malaysian athletes.

“The athletes will not be fasting in Shenzhen as it is quite hot over there now. Doing so (fasting) can be detrimental to their health and performance,” said Shaharudin.

Meanwhile, Higher Education Ministry Deputy Minister Datuk Dr Hou Kok Chung said there will be no extravagant cash incentives for athletes who win a gold medal.

“We will not hand out big cash incentives to the winners ... instead we may award academic-related rewards to them, like scholarships or increase in allowances,” Dr Hou said after officiating the flag-handing ceremony in Putrajaya yesterday.

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