THE Malaysian Amateur Athletic Union (MAAU) have chosen to look at reality and they have set a low target of winning only six gold medals in the Vietnam Games.
For the last Games in Kuala Lumpur in 2001, they raised their expectations sky high – predicting a haul of 16 gold medals but their team could only manage to deliver eight.
For the Vietnam Games, 22 athletes, comprising 13 men and nine women, will represent Malaysia in 22 of the 43 events in the programme.
Team manager R. Annamalai said that they set the target of winning six gold medals based on the performances of the athletes in the Asian Track and Field (ATF) meet in Manila in September.
“Most of the SEA Games-bound athletes competed in Manila and only two managed to win the bronze. The others failed to meet their personal best,” said Annamalai, who is also the MAAU vice-president.
“Our athletes failed to give their best in Manila because of the lack of international competitions this year caused by SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome).
“We could also not set a high target because several of our gold medallists in the 2001 Games in KL have retired. The task to better the eight-gold haul will be a very difficult one.”
The gold medallists of the 2001 Games who have retired are Nur Herman Majid (110m hurdles), A. Munusamy (1,500m), G. Saravanan (50km walk) and Teoh Boon Lim (20km walk).
Those who will have another crack at gold in Vietnam are pole vaulter Teh Weng Chang, hammer thrower Wong Tee Kue, high jumper Loo Kum Zee and women's walker Yuan Yufang.
Malaysia's better bets to win gold in Hanoi are Kum Zee and Yufang, who were bronze medallists in the ATF meet.
Kum Zee cleared 2.19m in Manila while Yufang earned a place in the Athens Olympics by shattering her own national record in the ATF meet. She clocked 1'32:25 to erased her old mark of 1'34:13, which she set in the World Championships in France in 1999.
Besides the 20km walk, the 27-year-old Yufang, who is also a strong long-distance runner, is down to compete in the 5,000m and 10,000m run.
The MAAU are also placing hopes on decathlete Malik Tobias to win a gold medal. In a training stint in Germany this year, the 22-year-old Malik rewrote his national record.
He chalked up 7,095 points to erase his old mark of 6, 989, which won him the gold medal in the 1999 SEA Games in Brunei. Malik did not compete in the last Games because of injury.
Among the other athletes who have the ability to challenge for gold medals are Siti Shahida Abdullah (hammer), Roslinda Samsu (pole vault), Mohamed Shahrulhaizy (20km walk), Mohamed Hazuan Zainal Abidin (long jump) and Mohamed Robani Hassan (110m hurdles).
On paper, they are good for the silver. But if they can lift their performances, there could be a flurry of gold medals for Malaysia.
Malaysia's best results in the biennial Games was achieved in 1965 with a haul of 19-14-9.