PETALING JAYA: Cager Chan Kek Thai (pic) was just a promising 17-year-old when Malaysia last hosted the SEA Games in 2001.
Now 16 years later, Kek Thai is excited to finally feature on home court when Malaysia host the Games again from Aug 19-30.
And it hasn’t been an easy journey for the 1.96m-tall centre, who has had to balance his work as a welder with full-time training in preparation for the Games since January.
But Kek Thai, who featured in the South-East Asian Basketball Association (SEABA) Championship in Manila in May for his first appearance with the national team since 2007, has done enough to earn himself a spot in head coach Goh Cheng Huat’s 12-member roster for the Games.
“It wasn’t easy trying to prepare for the Games because of my work,” said Kek Thai.
“It’s hard to go to work and then show up for training and trying to do my best on both sides.
“But the excitement of playing on home ground means the sacrifices I’ve made for the last five to six months have definitely been worth it.
“Besides, I’m already 33. This is probably my last year playing basketball at this level. I don’t want to do things half-heartedly.”
Kek Thai, who clinched bronze at the 2003 Hanoi Games, is only one of three players in the young squad who have won medals from previous Games.
The other two are Chee Li Wei, 34, and Soo Eng Heng, 33. Both were in the team who won bronze at the 2007 Korat Games.
The experience these three players bring will come in handy as Malaysia’s bid for a medal, having finish empty-handed in the last three editions of the Games.
Kek Thai and the team left for New Zealand yesterday for a 12-day playing tour.
Malaysia will play six matches against club sides in Auckland, Whanganui, Hawera, New Plymouth and Tauranga from July 18-30.
The tour is the team’s final build-up to the Games, where Malaysia are in Group A with defending champions the Philippines, Thailand and Myanmar.
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