PETALING JAYA: R. Kalaimathi is a stalwart of the national women’s basketball team.
Despite enduring a string of knee injuries over the years, the 1.85m cager has never backed out from the line of national duty.
The resolute 27-year-old, who has been an unrivalled pick at centre since making her national team debut at the age of 16, has certainly delivered when needed by helping Malaysia to gold medals at the 2015 and 2017 SEA Games.
Now, Kalaimathi is ready for another call of duty – the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games next month.
World No. 48 Malaysia have been drawn in a tough Group B featuring Jamaica, India and New Zealand.
Group A comprises world No. 4 and hosts Australia, world No. 5 Canada, England and Mozambique.
“I’ve had so many injuries over the years and I don’t think I’ve ever fully recovered,” said the resolute athlete, fondly known as Kalai.
“The pain is always on and off and I just try my best not to think too much about it. But what matters more to me is just to go on court and focus on the match.
“The Commonwealth Games is quite a different level from the SEA Games. Furthermore, all my teammates will also be making their Games debuts.
“We’re only familiar with India. We don’t know too much about New Zealand and even less about Jamaica, so we’ll need to make adjustments by the day.”
National head coach Yoong Sze Yuin said Malaysia’s biggest challenge at the Games was having only three tall players – Kalaimathi, Eugene Ting (1.8m) and youngster Hiew Ky Lie (1.78m) – who can measure up to the much taller Kiwis and Jamaicans.
“We definitely don’t have the height. In South-East Asia, all the players are about the same height but at the Commonwealth Games, the shortest player can be as tall as Kalaimathi,” said Sze Yuin.
“We’ll need to play to our strengths, by utilising our speed to win matches.”
Malaysia open their campaign against the Kiwis at the Cairns Convention Centre on April 5.
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