Sharmendran says it’s now or never in Tokyo qualifiers

Tough task ahead: R. Sharmendran (left) must finish on the podium to secure an Olympics ticket.

PETALING JAYA: National karate exponent R. Sharmendran sees the upcoming Olympics qualifiers in Paris on June 11-13 as a do-or-die mission.

The sport will make its debut in Japan this year but will be dropped from the 2024 Paris Olympics.

The 29-year-old Sharmendran and fellow SEA Games gold medallists S. Prem Kumar and P. Madhuri are Malaysia’s representatives at the qualifiers.

And their tasks will not be easy as they must finish on the podium to secure their tickets.

“We are obviously going to give it our best shot as this is the first time that karate is included at the Games.

“It will most probably be the last time too.

“But having said that, there’s no added pressure because we know the qualifiers will be very tough.

“And we also did not compete for the past year and a half due to the pandemic, ” said Sharmendran.

The trio will head to Kazakhstan for a training-cum-competition stint after their second dose of Covid-19 vaccine on May 4.

Sharmendran believes the month-long camp will be crucial.

“The reason we have chosen Kazakhstan is because they have many good exponents.

“Besides a few niggling injuries, I feel physically good. However, I need to sharpen up mentally and get used to being in a competitive and high pressure environment again.

“Adapting to a competitive environment fast will be very important for us ahead of the qualifiers.”

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