Syakilla reaches historic World Karate final

Malaysia's karate exponent Syakilla Salni Jefry Krisnan (left) jubilates after beating her Uzbekistani opponent at the 2014 Incheon Asian Games to win the women's U-61kg kumite gold medal. - Filepic

PETALING JAYA: Asian Games gold medallist Syakilla Salni Jefry Krisnan made a historic breakthrough for Malaysia by reaching the women’s kumite below 61kg final at the World Karate Championships in Bremen, Germany.

Syakilla, who was only given clearance by the doctor to compete a few days before the team’s departure to Bremen, pulled through on the judges’ decision in Thursday’s semi-finals against Tunisian Hasnaoui Bouthein, the bronze medallist at the last championships in Paris in 2012.

Both failed to score any points at the end of regulation time, but Syakilla was given a 4-1 win by the judges to become the first Malaysian to fight in a World Championship final.

It was a gritty performance from Syakilla as she had just recovered from a hamstring injury picked up at the Incheon Asiad in South Korea.

The 22-year-old’s tenacity paid off as she has now bettered S. Premila’s bronze-medal feat in the women’s Open event at the 2002 World Championships in Madrid.

Klang-born Syakilla will take on Lofty Giana, a two-time world junior champion from Egypt, in Saturday’s final.

Malaysian coach Andris Vasiljevs, a Latvian, has put a gag on Syakilla making any statement until her final is over.

Said Malaysian team manager C. Rajah: “It is important for Syakilla to stay focused. She has already made history for Malaysia. It’s a proud moment for the country as we have a finalist for the first time. She has nothing to lose and we hope she can get the gold.”

Syakilla kicked off her campaign by beating Italian Pasqua Laura 2-0. She continued her run into the last 16 with a 5-1 win over Ireland’s Kerin Mairi.

She then entered the last eight by whipping Romanian Adriana Boga 4-0 and recorded a 3-0 win over Spaniard Colomar Costa Irene to reach the semi-finals.

There is also a chance for Malaysia to pick up a second medal as the men’s kata team of Ricky Leong, Emmanuel Leong and Thomson Ho will contest the bronze playoff bout on Sunday.

The Malaysian trio, competing in their first tournament, started with a first-round bye. They then beat Austria 4-1 before going down 0-5 to Egypt in the quarter-finals on Thursday.

Malaysia were given another shot at a medal through the repechage after Egypt managed to edge Turkey 3-2 to reach the final. Malaysia grabbed the opportunity to beat Kuwait 4-1 in the first round of the repechage and will face Turkey on Sunday.

Turkey will be formidable foes as they sent defending champions Japan packing with a 5-0 win in the quarter-finals.

In the men’s below 60kg, R. Govinash did well to reach the last 16 before losing to French Agoudjil Sofiane on a sudden-death decision.

R. Sharmendran found Swiss Bajrami Kujtim too hot to handle as he bowed out 0-8 in the second round of the men’s below 67kg category. Nisha Alagasan was also a second-round casualty, losing 0-6 to Iranian Chalaki Fatemeh in the women’s below 55kg.

It was indeed a proud day for Malaysia as Malaysian Karate Federation (Makaf) secretary Vincent Chen won a place in the World Karate Federation (WKF) executive committee. He is the first official from South-East Asia to achieve the feat.

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