THE Malaysian traditional boat racing (TBR) team will be out to prove a point when they return to compete in the SEA Games after a 12-year hiatus.
They want to restore the dented pride of the Malaysia Canoe Association (Masca) following an internal split that marred the national body.
And they aim to do that by winning their first medal since the 1993 Games in Singapore.
The controversy which took place in late August saw two different lists of officials and athletes being submitted to the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM).
The initial list – which named Datuk Michael Wong, who is also the Masca deputy president, and Asrullah Kamar as the team managers for TBR and kayak squads respectively – was said to have been approved by the OCM. However, their president Datuk Seri Megat Shahriman Zaharudin came out with a separate list.
The conflict intensified when team captain Adam Aris announced his withdrawal from the biennial Games, with the others set to follow suit if Michael was not retained.
The OCM Selection Committee headed by their president Datuk Seri Norza Zakaria eventually stepped in to resolve the matter with the committee finally endorsing the first list.“It has been tough for all of us over the last few months, but credit to the team for being able to put the issue behind them, ” said Michael.
“Their morale has been restored after a series of visits and heart-to-heart talks with the National Sports Council (NSC) director-general Datuk Ahmad Shapawi (Ismail) and chef de mission Datuk Megat (Zulkarnain Omardin).
“Our 45-day centralised training has been going well and the team are currently pushing themselves very hard in China under the tutelage of renowned coach Lu Changsong. He’s the man who led China to three golds at the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games.
“At this point, I can assure that our boys and girls are ready for the Games.
“They are pumped up to return home with the first TBR medal since 1993 in a bid to raise the profile of the sport, ” vowed Michael, adding that Malaysia had not taken part in TBR since the 2007 Korat Games.
Malaysia are participating in six TBR events and one in kayak.
Michael said the best prospect for podium will be in the men’s TBR 12-seater 200m event while the men and women TBR four-seater could also spring a surprise.
“The team have a personal best of 50.88 which place us in the podium range. And it was done under tough conditions and a heavier boat, ” added Michael.
“We could’ve been more ambitious if the 500m race was contested. Our guys, during the national selection, actually smashed Taiwan’s gold-medal winning time at last year’s Asian Games. Unfortunately, the Philippines have decided not to stage the event. The four-seater is the other event we probably stand a chance. It’s quite new to us and I believe it’s going to be an open race.
“However, Thailand and Indonesia are the teams to beat. They are among the top nations in Asia.”