PETALING JAYA: Don’t let pressure get to you but just throw everything into the ring.
That’s the simple message from karate coach R. Puvaneswaran as he gets Prem Kumar, R. Sharmendran and P. Madhuri ready for the Tokyo Olympic Games qualification competition in Paris from June 11-13.
The meet will be the last chance for the karate exponents to qualify for Tokyo Olympics but they need to finish on the podium.
Karate will make its long awaited Olympics debut in Tokyo with eight gold medals at stake.
Indonesia Asian Games bronze medallist Prem Kumar and Sharmendran will take part in men’s kumite 67kg and 75kg respectively while Madhuri will enter for women’s kumite 55kg category.
Malaysia Karate Federation (Makaf) have not set any target for the trio given that it is the first competition after more than a year and it is also the first big test for Puvaneswaran.
But the fact that it is a chance for the exponents to make history by joining the Olympics family is not lost on Puvaneswaran.
“I know for sure, they are aware that the chance to become an Olympian is there. This could be the one and only time karate is contested in the Olympics. It is not listed as part of the programme in the next one in Paris and we don’t know if it will be included in the future, ” he said.
“I know for sure that Prem, Sharmendran and Madhuri are not going to let this chance go by and they will surely give their best.
“The only thing is that we do not want to put high expectations on them as they have not fought for so long and it is a tough tournament because everybody who have not qualified will be there, ” said Puvaneswaran.
“I believe everybody stands a good chance as their opponents as long as they do not let the pressure get to them.
“There have been occasions when the favourites had succumbed to pressure and didn’t know how to deal with someone who are ranked lower, ” said Puvaneswaran, a two-time Asian Games champion before calling it quits in 2010.
Puvaneswaran has been taking the trio through the paces for the last few weeks and will be bringing them to Kazakhstan for a month-long training stint.
“The intensity of training has gone up with focus on skill and tactical training, ” he said.
“I understand that we will not be the only team training in Kazakhstan as there will be some other countries also.
“It will be a good experience as we need quality sparring sessions. Kazakhstan in fact already have a world No. 1 ranked exponent (Darkhan Asadilov) who had already qualified for the Olympics, ” he said.
The Malaysian team will head straight to Paris for the Olympics qualifiers from Kazakhstan.