MALACCA: Sarawak, the defending overall champions, have named an 85-strong squad, including 10 gold medallists from last year's meet in Kuantan, for the four-day Malaysian Schools Sports Council (MSSM) athletics championships beginning at the Tun Fatimah Stadium in Malacca today.
Sarawak, however, are not offering any cash incentives to the athletes. An extensive tour of Malacca's historical sites after the meet is the only lure for the athletes.
“Going to Malacca alone is good enough a spur for our athletes,” said Sarawak Schools Technical Committee chairman Ting Siew Nguong.
With several of last year's gold medal winners still with us, we are capable finishing top. Our best gold medal hopes are in the Boys and Girls Under-l8 and Under-l5 age groups. We are expecting stiff opposition from Perak and Penang as well as Malacca but we should be able to retain the overall honours”.
Among Sarawak's golden prospects are Peter Agan Lungun (javelin) and Mohd Jironi Riduan (l,500m) in the Boys Under l8 category and Eugene Skudan who picked the Boys Under l5 long jump gold at Kuantan. Wong Teck Ho is also a gold medal certainty in the Boys Open pole vault.
In the Girls Under l8, Sarawak's golden hopes are pinned on Jacklyn Diana Andrew in the 400m hurdles and Ho Sin Hui in the javelin. In the Boys Under l5, the golden hopes are Ngu Chee Yan in the 110m hurdles as well as Noel Deland Nihang in both the 800m and 1500m.
While Sarawak are settling for a trip to the historical city, Perak have announced cash incentives - RM500 for a gold, RM300 for a silver and RM100 for a bronze - and still more cash for the 64-strong team if athletes break records.
Perak state director of education Datuk Adnan Ibrahim said the team had set a target of six golds, eight silvers and fourteen bronze medals to finish among the top three in the final overall standings. The target seems rather ambitious, after the state's meagre two-gold haul in Kuantan last year where Fauziah Abdul Razak won the 100m and 200m in the Girls Under-l5 category.
Among the athletes Perak are banking on are Fauziah, who will not only be defending her two titles but will also be competing in the 400m as well. Another potential is Vickaram Sadasivam who will compete in the Boys Under l8 1,500 and 5000m as well as the 3,000m steeplechase.
Also considered Perak's golden hopes are M. Vadivelan and Saiful Annuar. Going by current times, Saiful is presently the fastest in the Boys 100m and 200m hurdles while Vadivelan is tipped to collect golds in the Boys Under l8 110m and 400m hurdles.
A total of 95l athletes from all the states, including the Federal Territories of Labuan and Kuala Lumpur, will competing in the Boys and Girls Under l8, Under-l5 and Under-12age groups with ninety-four gold medals will be at stake.
Another eight golds will be up for grabs in the century sprint events for visually and hearing-impaired students from primary and secondary schools.