THE stage is set for Muhd Zulfiqar Ismail (pic) to be the new Malaysia Games (Sukma) sprint king in the absence of Kuala Lumpur SEA Games gold medallist Khairul Hafiz Jantan.
Asian Junior Championships bronze medallist Zulfiqar hopes to capitalise on Khairul’s absence to boost his athletics career by winning the 100m gold when the athletics competition begins today at the Perak Stadium.
“I’m ranked third in the 100m at Asia’s junior level and I definitely want to be the top junior sprinter in Malaysia,” said Zulfiqar, who featured in the 4x100m in the recent Asian Games with Khairul, Jonathan Nyepa and Nixson Kennedy.
The 20-year-old Khairul withdrew from the Games because he has an axe to grind with his state Melaka.
Khairul stole the thunder at the last Games in Sarawak in 2016 by winning four golds in the 100m, 200m, 4x100m and 4x400m. He also set a new national record of 10.18 in the blue riband event.
The 19-year-old Zulfiqar from Terengganu, who has a personal best time of 10.40 which he set in a competition in Germany last month, will face a strong challenge from Mohd Haiqal Hanafi of Negri Sembilan and Badrul Hisyam Abdul Manap of Melaka.
Haiqal has a personal best of 10.46 while Badrul’s best is 10.90, posted during the Malaysian Open in May in Bukit Jalil.
Meanwhile, Terengganu will be banking on pint-sized Azreen Nabila Alias to steal the show in the girls’ 100m event. She won a silver at the last Games with a time of 12.01.
National sprint coach M. Balamurugan said Terengganu sprinters Zulfiqar and Azreen should dominate the sprint events barring any upsets.
“Both are in good form to set good times,” said Balamurugan.
National hammer thrower Grace Wong Xiu Mei of Sarawak will be out to break her own Sukma record for the third consecutive time.
The 18-year-old holds the SEA Games record of 59.24m and also the national record of 60.99m. She was only 14 when she broke the Sukma record with a hurl of 55.82m in Perlis in 2014 and bettered her record with an effort of 57.76m in Sarawak (2016).
The other athletes expected to shine are para athlete Abdul Latif Romly of Perlis in the boys’ long jump, Queenie Ting of Sarawak in the girls’ discus and Andre Anura Anuar of Sabah in the boys’ triple jump.
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