Youngster Rafiq Ismail proved he is one of Asia’s best bowlers by winning the men’s Masters event. 2006 Doha Games triple gold medallist Esther Cheah rolled back the years to win women’s trio gold with Syaidatul Afifah Badrul Hamidi and Siti Safiyah Amirah Abdul Rahman. The two gold medals are an improvement from the 2014 Incheon Games.
Qabil Ambak spent his own money, almost RM1mil, en route to winning a silver medal in the individual dressage. It was his first Asiad in eight years. He’s one of the best in Asia and deserves financial support to realise his Olympic dream.
Azizulhasni Awang ended his third Asiad with a complete set of medals. He won the men’s sprint gold, a day after leading Muhammad Shah Firdaus Sahrom and Muhd Fadhil Zonis to break a 10-year national record for silver in the team sprint. In his pet event keirin, he came in third.
The sailors showed they are dependable medal contributors at the Asian Games by splashing to a 1-1-3 medal haul. Fauzi Kaman Shah stole the show by winning a gold. Khairulnizam Mohd Afendy (silver) and Nur Shazrin Latif (bronze) secured Olympic quota slots early.
Veteran Nicol David claimed her fifth career individual gold medal after beating debutant S. Sivasangari, who proved to bea future star, in the women’s singles final. The men served a pleasant surprise by winning the team gold, which was Malaysia’s seventh in the Asiad. The team won a total of two golds, one silver and two bronzes.
Four medals – one silver and three bronzes – may seem like a decent haul but it is not enough to mask the declining standard of the Malaysian diving team. Malaysia bagged four silvers and five bronzes in Guangzhou in 2010 and the number dropped from two silvers and three bronzes in Incheon.
The national Under-23 reached the last 16 just like they did at the 2010 Guangzhou Asiad. They stunned defending champions South Korea 3-1 to emerge as group champions. Coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee’s men were edged 1-0 by eventual finalists Japan. Their good show restored the confidence of Malaysian football fans.
The hockey boys suffered a heartbreak in the Asiad final when they lost 3-1 to Japan in the penalty shootout after the match ended 6-6. They missed out on an automatic Olympicspot. Still, it was acreditable show. Earlier, they stunned defending champions India in a sudden death penalty shootout 7-6 after a 2-2 draw in the semi-finals.
The silat exponents delivered four silver medals. The Malaysian team claimed that they could have won gold if the jury were fair. Host Indonesia won 14 out of the 16 golds offered.
Podium Programme’s Welson Sim gave a fairly good account of himself by breaking two national records. He pulled it off in the 800m freestyle and also set a new mark in the 4x100m freestyle with Foong Wei Tze, Keith Lim and Chan Jie.
The sport was left out from the core sports funding but still delivered a medal through Yap Khim Wen. She surprised everyone by winning the bronze in the individual poomsae – which was the first medal for the Malaysian contingent.
Kuala Lumpur SEA Games champion Khairul Hafiz Jantan, high jumper Nauraj Singh Randhawa, discus thrower Irfan Shamshuddin and triple jumper Hakimi Ismail performed below par unlike the stars in the 1960s and 1970s. Sprinter Zaidatul Husniah Zulkifli deserves credit for reaching the women’s 100m final – the first woman in 20 years to do so after former national sprint queen G. Shanti.
The men’s recurve team flopped by ending their campaign without any medals. Podium Programme’s Khairul Anuar Mohamad, Haziq Kamaruddin and Muhd Akmal Nor Hasrin, who won a silver at the 2014 Incheon Games, were sent packing in the first round.
Malaysia’s failure to win a single medal since the 1986 Seoul Games says it all. The absence of Lee Chong Wei, who withdrew due to illness, should not be used as an excuse as the Badminton Assocation of Malaysia lowered their target from one gold to two medals. Men’s doubles pair Goh V Shem-Tan Wee Kiong and mixed doubles pairs Chan Peng Soon-Goh Liu Ying and Goh Soon Huat-Shevon Lai Jemie, failed to clear the quarter-finals.
A letdown except for the spirited performance of S. Prem Kumar, who took bronze in the men’s kumite below 60kg event. 2014 Asian Games champion Syakilla Salni Jefri Krisnan was the nation’s flagbearer but the Podium Programme athlete failed miserably in her campaign by bowing out in the first round to Taiwan’s eventual winner Wen Tzu-yun.
Malaysia’s experienced pistol shooters, including Olympian Johnathan Wong, failed to rise to the occasion. None reached the top-eight final in their respective individual disciplines. It was one of the worst outings – especially after they swept 0-2-1 at the last Games.
The team had three Podium Programme athletes in Wong Weng Son, Yeap Wai Kin and Loh Jack Chang but none of them came close to landing a medal. The Asian Games competition is harder than the world championships as one needs to perform consistently.