PETALING JAYA: Malaysia's hopes to repeat the 61 gold medal haul achieved at the 2005 Manila SEA Games two years ago have been dealt a blow with the trimming of events in diving and gymnastics for the edition in Thailand at the end of the year.
The Thais, who will host the Games in Korat in December, have omitted five events in gymnastics and four in diving. All of them are Olympic events.
All four apparatus finals in the women's artistic gymnastics and also the individual all-around final in rhythmic gymnastics will not be contested. Only 20 gold medals will be at stake instead of the usual 25 at previous Games.
For diving, both the men's and women's individual 1m springboard events have been dropped. Also not included are the men's 3m springboard synchronised and women's 10m platform synchronised. Only six gold medals will be at stake in diving instead of 10.
It is a concern, especially for Malaysia, who won gold medals in four of the events at the last Games. The gold medallists in Manila were gymnasts Nurul Fatiha Abdul Hamid (uneven bars) and Foong Seow Ting (rhythmic all-around); and divers Yeoh Ken Nee (men's 1m springboard) and Leong Mun Yee-Cheong Jun Hoong (women's 10m platform synchronised).
For diving, it is certainly a loss because Melbourne Commonwealth Games silver medallist Ken Nee and Doha Asian Games bronze medallists Elizabeth Jimie would be shoo-ins to win the 1m springboard gold medals.
Ken Nee and Rossharisham, being the Asian Games silver medallists, are also unchallenged in the region in the 3m springboard synchronised event.
The National Sports Council (NSC) deputy director, Datuk Zolkples Embong, said that they would conduct a study and the findings would be forwarded to the Youth and Sports Minister, Datuk Azalina Othman Said, before they make medal projections.
“It is still too early to talk about the number of medals we will aim for. But we cannot expect to win as many medals as we did in Manila two years ago,” he said.
“The Thailand SEA Games organisers have decided not to include several events and they are the ones we are strong in. I think our women's gymnasts are quite strong while our divers are currently seen as the best in South-East Asia.
“The SEA Games will be our main priority this year and it is important for us to maintain our rankings in the region.
“If our top athletes do not have any bigger assignments during the Games, we will include them. At the same time, we also want to focus on developing younger athletes.”