PETALING JAYA: Karate exponent Lim Chee Wei has emerged as the front-runner to shoulder the challenge of defending the individual kata (sparring) gold medal for Malaysia at the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea, in September.
Chee Wei celebrated a double at the recently-concluded South-East Asian Karate Championships in Can Tho, Vietnam, as Malaysia returned with a total medal haul of 8-5-12 from the four-day meet.
The 22-year-old beat his more illustrious team-mate Leong Tze Wai in the senior men’s individual kata.
The Penang-born Chee Wei then combined with Tze Wai and Emmanuel Leong Theng Kuang to beat Vietnam in the kata team final.
This is not the first time Chee Wei has scored a double. In the Myanmar SEA Games last year, he helped end four years of misery for Malaysia in the individual event and was part of the same team who won the gold medal.
Tze Wai is a two-time Asian champion in the discipline but his career has taken a nosedive due to injuries. Fortunately, Chee Wei has stepped up to the plate.
Chee Wei represented Malaysia at the Asian Karate Championships in the United Arab Emirates just before the SEA Games and managed to win the bronze in individual kata.
Tze Wai and Chee Wei have yet to feature at the Asiad. Ku Jin Keat, their current coach, won the gold medal at the last Asian Games in Guangzhou before retiring and Chee Wei is the favourite to get the nod if his current form is any indication.
Chee Wei came into the national elite set-up after a breakthrough performance at the World Junior Championships in Malacca in 2011, winning bronze for the country’s first ever medal at that level.
There is no team kata event at the Asian Games.
Five more gold medals were won in the senior ranks from the kumite exponents in Vietnam. The back-up members who triumphed were Prem Kumar (men’s below 55kg), R. Sharmendran (men’s below 67kg), S. Jayaraman (men’s below 75kg) and SEA Games gold medallist Syakila Salni (women’s below 61kg).
Syakila also brought home a second gold with Nisha Alagasan and Shree Sharmini Segaran in the team kumite final.
In women’s individual kata, Celine Lee found her Vietnamese rival and former world champion Nguyen Hoang Ngan too strong in the semi-finals and eventually settled for the bronze medal. Hoang Ngan defeated team-mate Nguyen Thanh Hang for the gold and took the team title as Malaysia also settled for the bronze.
Davaras Letchmanan was the only gold medallist for Malaysia in the junior ranks when he came out tops in men’s junior kumite below 61kg.