Minister wants Tokyo-bound athletes to be vaccinated by May

Sensational: Lee Zii Jia beat Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen in the All-England final. — AFP

KUALA LUMPUR: The Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Reezal Merican Naina Merican wants all athletes heading to the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics to be vaccinated before end of May.

Reezal said he has spoken to the Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin on the matter.

“We have a list of 264 athletes under the Podium Programme going for both games.

“I have spoken to Khairy and I hope to see that these group will start receiving their vaccines next month.

“It also depends on the stocks available as every individual will receive two doses. The second shot is usually two weeks apart, so we hope to see them to be protected by May.

“No one is safe until everyone is safe.

“That’s the approach we will take for major competitions like the Olympics and SEA Games, ” he said after opening the “Beyond Coaching” programme organised by the National Sports Institute yesterday.

Tokyo will host the Olympics from July 23 to Aug 8 while the Paralympics will take place from Aug 24 to Sept 5.

Reezal revealed that the National Sports Council (NSC) plan to arrange for overseas-based athletes like track cyclists Azizulhasni Awang and Mohd Shah Firdaus Sahrom to get their vaccines in Melbourne, where they are based, if possible.

“This is because Australia will provide vaccination for everyone, including migrants, but if they are still not given the jabs there after a certain period, they will be vaccinated here, ” added Reezal, who also extended his congratulations to Azizul, Shah Firdaus and shuttler Lee Zii Jia for their recent achievements.

Shah Firdaus finished ahead of Azizul to take the keirin gold at the Australia Track National Championship in Brisbane on Sunday. In the sprint a day earlier, Azizul and Shah Firdaus won silver and bronze respectively.

Meanwhile, Zii Jia beat the odds to win the singles title at the All-England earlier this month.

“Their achievements will inspire fellow Malaysians to have hope in their abilities to bring more success at the Olympics.

“Azizul is not only our best bet but I believe Shah Firdaus and Zii Jia can also hold their own in Tokyo as they now have more confidence.”

Azizul was one of five medal winners at the 2016 Rio Games.

He claimed a historic bronze in the keirin while Pandelela Rinong-Cheong Jun Hoong splashed to silver in the 10m platform synchro.

The shuttlers contributed three silvers through Lee Chong Wei (singles), Goh V Shem-Tan Wee Kiong (doubles) and Chan Peng Soon-Goh Liu Ying (mixed doubles).

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