KUALA LUMPUR: Zarif Syahiir Zolkepeli is the likely candidate to replace the late Haziq Kamaruddin to make up the Malaysian men’s recurve trio going for the Tokyo Olympics’ Final Qualification Tournament (FQT) in Paris next month.
It will be a do-or-die mission for Malaysia in the meet from June 18-21 as they need to finish in the top three to continue the strong tradition of competing in the Olympic archery team event since the Beijing Games in 2008.
Haziq passed away suddenly on Friday at his home from Kajang and was buried in Melaka in the early hours of the morning.
Haziq, who has been with the national team for 10 years, was ruled to have died from a clogged artery in his heart.
The 27-year-old himself went for two Olympics in London 2012 and in Rio de Janeiro four years later.
National Archery Association of Malaysia president Datuk Abdul Hamid Hasan said Haziq was supposed to combine with Khairul Anuar Mohamad and Mohd Akmal Nor Hasrin to represent Malaysia in the Olympic qualifiers.
“They were in the final stage of preparation for two competitions in Paris.
“Paris was to host the last leg of the Archery World Cup and then the archers whose country have yet to qualify for the team would compete in the Olympic qualifiers.
“Both tournaments were to take place under the bubble concept, so we had done the necessary paperwork.
“But we did not expect to lose Haziq suddenly as he had recently expressed his desire not to miss out on a third Olympics outing in Tokyo.
“He wanted another chance to win an Olympic medal and the team would have been his best chance.
“But our mission continues. We will probably enter Zarif who is our reserve to form the new combination for the Olympics qualifiers.
“There is not much time to have a selection trial given the current Covid-19 situation where it is hard to get everyone in the same place.
“We will discuss with coach Lee Jae-hyung on the best option, ” he said.
The 22-year-old Zarif first broke into the national team in 2018 and is the fourth ranked Malaysian behind Khairul, Akmal and Haziq Kamaruddin in the world rankings.
He took part with Khairul and Haziq at the 2019 SEA Games in the Philippines where Malaysia failed to defend the men’s recurve team title after losing to Indonesia in the final.
Khairul is the only Malaysian archer to qualify for Tokyo so far.
He made the early cut for the Olympics after finishing runner-up in the men’s individual recurve event at the World Archery Championships in Holland two years ago.