PETALING JAYA: A new ruling on foreign entries is set to provide the boost that Malaysian taekwondo needs to maintain its record of contributing gold medals at a home SEA Games.
Malaysia rocked the 1989 SEA Games stage in Kuala Lumpur with 10 gold medals – still the best outing so far for taekwondo.
When the Games returned to KL in 2001, taekwondo bagged three gold medals.
All the countries competing in KL 2017 have been notified of the new ruling, which states that they can each only field a maximum of three men and three women for the kyorugi (fighting) events.
There are five events for men and six for women in kyorugi.
With the exception of the host country, the other teams can only take part in three out of the five poomsae (non-sparring) events.
Taekwondo is believed to be the only sport that was allowed by the SEA Games organisers to change its rules before the June 30 deadline for submission of entries by numbers.
Taekwondo Malaysia (TM) technical director R. Dhanaraj hopes that the new ruling will benefit the hosts.
“We are entering exponents for all the 11 weight categories in kyorugi and five for poomsae (mixed team, men and women’s poomsae individual and men and women’s poomsae team).
“The standard of taekwondo in South-East Asia is high compared to when we last hosted the SEA Games in 2001.
“Countries like Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam have produced world-class exponents and won medals at the Olympics.
“At the World Taekwondo Championships in South Korea last week, Thailand won two silvers and one bronze.
“Vietnam too had a silver medallist. So, SEA Games taekwondo is a high-level competition,” he said.
Malaysia last won a SEA Games taekwondo gold in Laos in 2009 through Chee Chew Chan (women’s below 80kg).
Rozaimi Rozali, who was named the best fighter after winning the men’s 63-68kg category at the Asean Taekwondo Championships in Perlis in March, stands the best chance to end Malaysia’s gold medal drought in August.
“We sent six exponents to the world meet and Rozaimi was the only one who managed to reach the last 32,” said Dhanaraj.
“He won two bouts, but we withdrew him from the last-32 match. He took a punch to his face and we didn’t want to aggravate the situation as the SEA Games are not too far away.”
Poomsae mixed pair Yong Jin Kun-Yap Khim Wen, who bagged gold at the Asean meet in Perlis, will also be counted on to deliver again in August.
Malaysia bagged three silvers and three bronzes at the Singapore Games two years ago.