Zolkples: Olympic qualifying target for women unrealistic

KUALA LUMPUR: National Sports Council (NSC) director general Datuk Zolkples Embong has described as “unrealistic” the Malaysian women’s hockey team’s target of a top-two placing in the Olympic qualifiers in Victoria, Canada, from April 26-May 4.

“Although the team have improved a lot since their 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games humiliation, the top-two target set for them will only put unnecessary pressure on the players,” he said yesterday.

“This will be the first time that the national women’s team will be featuring in an Olympic qualifiers and they should use the tournament to prepare a strong team for the 2010 Asian Games in Ghangzhou, China.

“We have a young team with an average age of 22 and they should focus on winning the bronze medal in the Asian Games in two years’ time.

“It’s been quite long since the national women’s team bagged the medal (bronze) in the Asian Games (in 1982 in New Delhi).”

Malaysia qualified for the Olympic qualifiers based on their fifth-placed finish in the Doha Asian Games in 2006.

Besides Malaysia, the other teams in the fray are world No. 8 South Korea, Ireland (No. 18), Italy (No. 23), Canada (No. 25) and Uruguay (No. 28). Malaysia, who are ranked 25th in the world, will open their campaign against Ireland on April 26.

Their other matches are against favourites South Korea (April 27), Canada (April 29), Italy (May 1) and Uruguay (May 3).

The final and classification matches will be held on May 4. Only the winners will earn a berth for the Beijing Olympics in August.

The national team, trained by Yahya Atan, will leave for Canada on Monday to get acclimatised to the chilly conditions, with temperature hovering around the 15°C range and to get used to the venue.

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