NAAM must aim for changes to have contenders

PETALING JAYA: The National Archery Association of Malaysia (NAAM) will have to make changes if they intend to go to the 2024 Olympics in Paris as worthy contenders, rather than continuously making up the numbers.

Seasoned campaigner Khairul Anuar Mohamad reached the last 16 of the elimination stage while debutant Syaqiera Mashayikh’s challenge ended in the first round of the Olympics in Tokyo. It was archery’s fifth Olympics appearance.

Khairul and Syaqiera also failed to qualify for the top-16 knockout stage of the inaugural mixed team event after finishing 19th in the qualifying round.

It was not one of the sports targeted to deliver although there was quiet hope on the 29-year-old Khairul to rise to the occasion.

Malaysia did not qualify for the men’s team for the first time since Beijing 2008 as they were affected by Haziq Kamaruddin’s sudden demise, just several weeks before the Final Qualification Tournament in Paris.

The men’s team event is always regarded as Malaysia’s forte given their reputation as seven-time podium finishers, including four-time silver medallists, in the annual World Cup series.

Without his teammates, Khairul had to shoulder the responsibility on his own in Tokyo unlike in the previous two outings.

Khairul has struggled in the individual event although he is one of the world’s top 20 ranked archer in recent years.

Except for the surprise silver medal at the 2019 World Championships in Holland, his only other major solo achievement was a World Cup silver back in 2011 in the Shanghai leg.

Head coach Lee Jae-hyung has defended Khairul’s performance in Tokyo, saying that he was just “unlucky” to lose to former world champion Kim Woo-jin, who happened to shoot a perfect score in all three sets against him.

“Khairul did quite well. Normally scores like 27 or 29 (of maximum 30 in set) would have been good enough to win you a match,” said Jae-hyung.

“Woo-jin ended up losing in the next round.

“In fact, none of the top nine seeds made the podium. That’s how competi tive the elimination round was. It all boils down to the match day.

“Khairul has not stagnated. He shot a new personal best of 691 (out of maximum 720) during our Olympics simulation tournament recently. He can still be counted on but we need the rest to share the duty too.”

Zarif Syahiir Zolkepeli, who joined the team in 2017, showed he was ready to play a regular role after he teamed up with Khairul and Akmal Nor Hasrin to finish fourth in the World Cup in Paris, which was held after the FQT in June.

The other back-up members who will be eyeing to break into the first team are Bryson Ting, Norhairulnizam Rosdi and Fitri Mohd Yusof.

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