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Monday January 14, 2013

Artistic gymnastics team in dire need of new talents

Limited choices: Tracie Ang is one of the four
gymnasts in the elite squad. Limited choices: Tracie Ang is one of the four gymnasts in the elite squad.

PETALING JAYA: Will Malaysian artistic gymnastics ever see its own version of the Fab Five?

What was once a goldmine for Malaysia with talents like Olympian Au Li Yen, Nurul Fatiha Abdul Hamid and Chan Sau Wah, the sport is now in a dire need of new faces.

If other sports are scraping the barrel, artistic gymnastics has certainly hit rock bottom.

The are four gymnasts in the elite squad – Tracie Ang, Tan Ing Yueh, Farah Ann Abdul Hadi and Nur Eli Ellina Azmi – and no replacement in the horizon.

National head coach Nurul Fatiha admits that the situation is dire.

“There is just too big a gap between the elite squad and the development (pelapis) squad. We don’t have enough gymnasts coming through the ranks,” she said.

“Some states like Pahang, Perak and Sarawak have appointed foreign coaches to unearth new talents. It’d be great if the other states do the same as well. We need a bigger talent pool to tap from.”

Fatiha, who took over from Russia’s Mikhail Gutsalyuk last February, revealed that most of the current gymnasts were “fragile” and prone to injuries.

“Our gymnasts are good, but they’re fragile. We have to look after them like precious cargo. Push them too hard, we’ll lose them to injury ... and they can’t compete. It also makes planning for competitions difficult as it’s a gamble and not everyone is 100% fit all the time,” said the 27-year-old Fatiha, a SEA Games gold medallist in the uneven bars in 2003 and 2005.

She also admitted that it was a slow and tedious process nursing her charges back to health each time they suffered from injuries.

However, Fatiha hopes that the two new additions to the elite squad – juniors Nur Azira Aziri and Rachel Yeoh – would gain more experience by training with the seniors.

“My target this year is to have a team at the SEA Games. I believe in my girls and I know they have what it takes to challenge for medals ... whatever the colour may be. They’re talented and capable of winning,” said Fatiha.

The elite squad will have two months to prepare for their first competition of the year – the 6th FIG Artistic Gymnastics Challenge Cup in Doha, Qatar, from March 27-29.


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