YearStarter 2023: Sports - Malaysia gets first world champs, Messi makes magic


Aaron Chia (right) and Soh Wooi Yik ended Malaysia’s 45-year-wait for a world title. – Photo: AP

First badminton world champion

Malaysia's Pearly Tan and M.Thinaah. – FilepicMalaysia's Pearly Tan and M.Thinaah. – FilepicTop men's doubles pair Aaron Chia-Soh Wooi Yik gave Malaysia a National Day gift by winning the 2022 World Badminton Championships title in Tokyo.

They beat former three-time world champions Mohd Ahsan-Hendra Setiawan of Indonesia 21-19, 21-14.

Aaron-Wooi Yik, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics bronze medallists, were the first ever Malaysian shuttlers to be crowned world champions since its inception in 1977.

Pearly Tan-M. Thinaah and the mixed badminton team also beat the odds to deliver two gold medals for Malaysia at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games in August.

Pearly-Thinaah helped Malaysia exceed its target of six golds by contributing the seventh gold medal after a 21-5, 21-8 win over English pair Chloe Birch-Lauren Smith in the women's doubles final.

SEA Games return

2022 was also the year when athletes got their long awaited international sporting action in the Vietnam SEA Games in Hanoi.

Almost 60 per cent of the 584-member strong Malaysian team were debutants and the contingent finished sixth overall with 39 golds, 45 silvers and 90 bronzes.

The SEA Games were held back by a year because of the Covid-19 pandemic but took off successfully despite earlier fears about the health and well-being of the participants.

Good year for team sports

Football

The decision to put their faith in Korean style management paid dividends as the Malaysian football team handled by Kim Pang-gon qualified for the 2023 Asian Cup Finals on merit for the first time in 42 years following a thumping 4-1 win over Bangladesh at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil.

Malaysia thus finished Group E with six points, having beaten Turkmenistan 3-1 in their opening match on June 8.

It will only be the fourth appearance for Malaysia in the Asian Cup Finals

The national hockey team celebrating after winning their first  Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh. – Photo: BernamaThe national hockey team celebrating after winning their first Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh. – Photo: Bernama

Hockey

The men's hockey team made history by lifting the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup for the first time after defeating South Korea 3-2 in a tense final at the Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey Stadium last month.

The win enabled the Speedy Tigers to end a 39-year wait for the title, which they missed out on when they lost 8-3 to Australia in the final of the 2014 edition.

Pocket man under the knife

Back to good health ... Azizulhasni Awang competing in the men's keirin final of the MNCF President's Cup at National Velodrome in Nilai. Azizul settled for silver behind the Kiwi rider Sam Dakin in the final.Back to good health ... Azizulhasni Awang competing in the men's keirin final of the MNCF President's Cup at National Velodrome in Nilai. Azizul settled for silver behind the Kiwi rider Sam Dakin in the final.The Malaysian sporting fraternity were also shocked by news in April that Tokyo Olympic silver medallist Azizulhasni Awang had to undergo surgery to correct a rare heart defect.

Azizul's recovery post surgery has been nothing but amazing as he made his competitive return last month in the UCI Track Champions League (TCL) in November, where he ranked eighth overall from 18 riders with 60 points after five rounds.

Rest in peace

Former Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) secretary-general Datuk Sieh Kok Chi passed away at the age of 83 in July.

Sieh played a significant role in the development of sports and his professional contributions advanced the Olympic Movement in Malaysia.

We also mourn the loss of middle distance running great R. Subramaniam, who ran at the 1964 Tokyo and 1968 Mexico Olympics, Thomas Cup doubles great Datuk Ng Boon Bee and legendary Malaysian footballer Syed Ahmad Abu Bakar.

World football also lost one of its greatest ever stars, Brazilian legend Pelé, on Dec 29. Beloved by football fans all over the world, Pelé was the only man to win the World Cup three times as a player.

Argentina lifts the World Cup

Qatar hosted the first World Cup held in the Middle East impeccably. FIFA president Gianni Infantino argued it was the greatest World Cup of all time despite controversies surrounding allegations of poor human rights record and treatment of migrant workers.

The four-week-long tournament culminated in a thrilling conclusion when Kylian Mbappé scored a stunning hat-trick in a losing cause and Lionel Messi finally lifted the World Cup on his fifth try.

The Qatar World Cup ended with Argentina as the champion and its captain Messi realising his dream of winning the trophy in his fifth outing.The Qatar World Cup ended with Argentina as the champion and its captain Messi realising his dream of winning the trophy in his fifth outing.

Good bye tennis great

Tennis legend Roger Federer bids goodbye. — AFPTennis legend Roger Federer bids goodbye. — AFPRoger Federer, 41, who won 20 Grand Slam singles titles, announced his retirement from tennis in Sept. He said injuries and surgeries had taken their toll on his body.

The Swiss legend bows out after having won 103 ATP singles titles including 20 Grand Slams, as well as an Olympic doubles gold medal from Beijing 2008.

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