An 11-year itch for Ashraf, and still not scratched

KUALA LUMPUR: Three-time national table-tennis champion Mohd Ashraf Haiqal has waited 11 years for this chance – he has been selected to feature in the Asia Olympic Qualifying tournament.

But the wait has been extended even longer.

The tournament in Thailand, which was supposed to have been held last month, has been postponed indefinitely.

The 26-year-old Kedahan won the national title in 2016,2017 and 2018 but was always overshadowed by senior players like Mohd Shakirin (Ibrahim) and Leong Chee Feng.

“I had to wait 11 years for my turn to compete in the Olympics qualifier because of the senior players.

“They went to the Asia qualifying tournament because they were more experienced.

“But Shakirin retired in 2017 and Chee Feng is no longer in the national team since last year so I got the chance, ” said Ashraf.

“I have featured in five world championships since 2015 but I have yet to compete in the Olympics.”

Only the top five men players from the qualifying tournament will earn their places in the Olympics.

Ashraf, who made his international debut in the Laos SEA Games in 2009, was excited about his chance.

“It is every athlete’s dream to compete in the Olympics, ” said Ashraf, who also admitted it won’t be easy to be in the top five in Bangkok.

He will be up against top players from China, South Korea, North Korea, among others.

“But I fear no one as I am physically and mentally ready to face the best players from Asia, ” said Ashraf, who is doing workouts in his home town in Alor Setar since the movement control order (MCO) began on March 18.

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