PETALING JAYA: Archer Zarif Syahiir Zolkepeli has boosted his chances of being picked for the Tokyo Olympics’ Final Qualification Tournament (FQT) in Paris from June 18-21.
The 22-year-old impressed yet again after winning the fourth round of the national team’s Road To Tokyo simulation tournament at the National Sports Council in Bukit Jalil last week.
World No. 66 Zarif, who’s ranked fourth in the team behind seniors Khairul Anuar Mohamed (No. 9), Akmal Nor Hasrin (No. 48) and Haziq Kamaruddin (No. 59), defeated back-up teammate Bryson Ting 6-4 in the final for his first victory in the internal series.
It was certainly well-deserved for Zarif after he finished second behind Khairul during the third round last December.
Zarif also came in a creditable third in November’s second leg.
Khairul failed to make it a fourth win on the trot after he was stunned by Bryson in the semi-finals.
“I’m so happy and contented to be able to improve on my result after each round.
“I was determined more than ever after my runner-up finish three months ago, and I’m glad that I won this time, ” said Zarif, who broke into the first team in 2018.
“It shows that my preparation is going well ahead of our return to international competitions. I’m feeling more confident with my shooting form now.”
Zarif hopes the victory will carry some weight as he faces Haziq and Akmal in the battle for tickets to the forthcoming major meets, especially the FQT.
Only the best three get picked and Khairul is the only automatic starter.
“I consider myself the third or fourth ranked in the team because I did make the three-man team for the (Philippines) SEA Games and World Championships (in Holland) two years ago, ” explained Zarif.
“But it’s my long-term goal to establish myself as the regular three.
“I hope to make the team for the FQT and help Malaysia qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. It’s do-or-die there.
“The competition among us is very fierce indeed, but I’m relishing it. It’s healthy and makes the team stronger.”
If all goes well, the archers are expected to return to action after 14 months without competition in the first leg of the Asia Cup in Bangkok, Thailand, from May 2-9.
The two more scheduled tournaments include the second leg of the World Cup in Lausanne, Switzerland (May 17-23) and the second leg of the Asia Cup in Gwangju, South Korea (June 7-11).
Ranking round: 1. Khairul Anuar Mohamed 684,2. Zarif Syahiir Zolkepeli 655,3. Fitri Yussof 638,4. Bryson Ting 637,5. Norhairulnizam Rosdi 633,6. Akmal Nor Hasrin 619.
Quarter-finals: Khairul Anuar Mohamed bye; Bryson Ting bt Norhairulnizam Rosdi 7-3; Fitri Yusof bt Akmal Nor Hasrin 6-4; Zarif Syahiir Zolkepeli bye.
Semi-finals: Bryson Ting bt Khairul Anuar Mohamed 6-2; Zarif Syahiir Zolkepeli bt Fitri Yusof 6-4.
Third placing: Khairul Anuar Mohamed bt Fitri Yusof 6-2.
Final: Zarif Syahiir Zolkepeli bt Bryson Ting 6-4.