PETALING JAYA: There were 32 Malaysian athletes at the last Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 but in Tokyo next year, the number could dwindle to just over two dozen.
Malaysia had looked forward to sending the biggest contingent since Munich in 1972 but the men’s hockey team’s defeat to Britain last week crushed that dream.
The nation will now be depending only on individual sports to expand the Olympic cast for Tokyo.
In 1972, a total of 49 athletes, including the football and hockey teams, represented Malaysia in Munich, Germany.
The biggest Malaysian contingent of 62 went for the 1964 Olympics when Japan hosted the Olympics in Tokyo for the first time.
Malaysia have earned quota spots in eight events across four sports so far – diving (four), sailing (two), artistic gymnastics (one) and archery (one).
National Sports Council (NSC) are expecting more athletes to qualify on merit in badminton, track cycling, golf, sailing, archery to make it a contingent of 25.
“It’s going to be tough to match the numbers we had for Rio but qualifying events for most of the sports are going on and we will not know exactly until about two months before the Olympics, ” said NSC director-general Datuk Ahmad Shapawi Ismail.
“The qualifying standards for swimming and athletics are higher and that makes it tougher for our athletes.
“But I believe we have a chance to get in at least two more through wildcards in swimming and athletics.”
There is also hope for one woman recurve archer to qualify for Tokyo if they can grab one of the three tickets at stake in the Asian Archery Championships in Bangkok, Thailand, at the end of this month.
Khairul Anuar Mohd has already qualified by virtue of his silver medal in the men’s recurve at the World Archery Championships in Holland in June.
The whole team will, however, have to wait until the final world qualification tournament in Berlin, Germany, next year to know if they can win one of the three tickets at stake.
The national shooters are vying for Olympic spots in the Asian Championships, which started in Doha yesterday while more divers are expected to make the final cut at the Diving World Cup in Tokyo in April.
Track cyclist Azizulhasni Awang is a shoo-in for a fourth Olympic appearance in keirin but will only confirm his spot when the qualifying period ends on March 2.
In Rio de Janeiro, Malaysian athletes qualified in 10 sports and won four silver medals and a bronze.
It was the country’s best-ever medal haul in Olympics history.
Archery: Khairul Anuar Mohd (men’s recurve individual).
Artistic gymnastics: Farah Ann Hadi (women’s individual all-around).
Diving: Leong Mun Yee-Pandelela Rinong (women’s 10m platform synchro), Pandelela (women’s 10m platform individual), Wendy Ng Yan Yee (women’s 3m springboard individual), Nur Dhabitah Sabri (women’s 3m springboard individual).
Sailing: Khairulnizam mohd afendy (men’s Laser), nu r shazrin mohd Latif (women’s Laser radial).