Penang karate team all geared up for top showing at Sarawak Sukma

The Penang Sukma exponents (from left, down the row) Yee Voon, Ariana and Sin Yi, sparring with Ivan, San Hong and Howart respectively during a session at the training centre in Transfer Road. — ZAINUDIN AHAD/The Star

PENANG mopped up all the four gold medals on offer in karate’s kata (non-combat) events in the last Malaysia Games (Sukma) competitions two years ago.

In next month’s 16th Sukma in Sarawak, the Penang exponents are expected to dominate the men’s and women’s individual and team events in kata again.

Despite their status as overwhelming favourites, Penang kata team coach Lim Lee Lee refuses to set a specific target for her charges.

“We do not think about winning the gold medals before even going to the competition. My advice to my charges is just to do their best.

“For every competition, the Penang kata team believe in doing our best, both in preparation and during competition. Our best efforts in the past Sukma events were enough to bring back the gold medals. Everybody else (other states) are improving, and we need to work harder each time to remain ahead,” said Lee Lee, who is also a national coach for kata.

The six-member Penang kata team to Sarawak comprises Ivan Oh Theng Wei, Howart Tan Jia Jie, Ooi San Hong (men) and Khaw Yee Voon, Ariana Lim Junyi, Chong Sin Yi (women). Except for Ivan, Howart and Yee Voon, the other three members in the squad will be making their Sukma debuts in Sarawak.

The 19-year-old Ivan, who shot to fame when he emerged the champion in the Southeast Asia Karate Championships last year, will compete in the men’s individual event in Miri.

This is the first time that he will lead the men’s team in Sukma after combining with Hoe Thomson and Joshua Wong to win the men’s team gold in Perlis two years ago.

“I am happy to be chosen by my coaches to represent Penang in the Sukma individual event for the first time. Judging from Penang’s excellent past record, I know the expectations are high for me to deliver in Sarawak. I am confident of doing my best in both the individual and team events, and not let Penang down.

“Although the Penang kata team’s preparations are going well, much will depend on our actual performance during the competition. We must stay focused, and also relaxed to avoid making any slip-ups during the event,” said Ivan, who recently won the Penang best promising male athlete award for 2015.

Although the men’s team of Ivan, Howart (18) and San Hong (16) will compete together for the first time in Sukma next month, they have already proven their capabilities in competitions. The trio bagged the junior team gold medal in the 2014 Asian Karate Federation Championships in Kuala Lumpur.

For the 21-year-old Yee Voon, the Sarawak Sukma offers a final chance to bow out of the junior scene with an individual gold medal.

Yee Voon has won two Sukma gold medals, following victories in the women’s team events in Malacca 2012 and Perlis 2014.

“Of course, there is pressure to maintain Penang’s proud tradition in the women’s individual and team events. Having won the team gold medals in the last two Games, I am looking forward to add a first individual title and a third team gold to my collection,” said the Universiti Sains Malaysia undergraduate.

Yee Voon will team up with debutants Ariana (17) and Sin Yi (19) to defend Penang’s women’s team kata title.

The four kata events will be held at the Miri City Stadium on July 19, the first day of competition in the Sarawak Sukma.

If the kata squad can repeat their four-gold haul on the opening day, it will be a good start for the 450-strong Penang contingent, who have set a 30-gold target in Sarawak.

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