Kumite team battle like possessed fighters to end 29-year drought

We’ve got our kicks!: The karate exponents celebrating after winning the men’s kumite team gold. — Bernama

THE Malaysian supporters came with big banners in hand and with huge expectations on the 36 gold medal target chase ending at the Ninh Binh Sports Gymnasium.

And they didn’t go home disappointed as the men’s kumite team fought like possessed fighters to regain the much coveted team gold medal after 29 long years, ensuring the Malaysian contingent reach their target in Hanoi with three days to go.

Seasoned fighter R. Sharmendran got the ball rolling by beating Ignatius Joshua Kandou 8-3 in the first bout to give Malaysia a 1-0 lead against Indonesia yesterday.

Prem Kumar stepped in and glared down on his rival Adi Saputra as he was not prepared to lose to his opponent for a second time.

Prem, who was beaten by the eventual winner Adi in the first round of the men’s 60kg individual category on Wednesday, was unstoppable as he fought well to win 3-1 and hand Malaysia a 2-0 cushion.

Newcomer H. Sureeya Sankar, the newly crowned men’s 67kg category champion, did not disappoint as he beat Sandi Firmansyah 6-1 for the winning point as the rest of his teammates rushed into the arena in joyous celebration.

Malaysia last won the men’s team kumite gold medal back in the 1993 SEA Games in Singapore.

It is only the second time that Malaysia have won the prestigious title.

“After 29 years, we are the champions again. We were really ready when we made the final.

“We already knew the gold was ours even before we entered the tatami.

“That was our mentality before we started the final and I just didn’t want to go back without a gold (after losing his chance in the individual 60kg category).

“I can’t really express my feelings now but we proved that the Malaysia karate team are still strong,” said the 28-year-old Prem, who won the men’s kumite 55kg category in the Philippines in 2019.

Malaysia earlier beat Laos 2-0 and Vietnam 3-0 to reach the final.

Hoe Thomson, Emmanuel Leong and Ivan Oh beat the Philippines for the men’s team kata bronze.

The trio were gold medallists in the men’s team kata event at the 2019 SEA Games.

M. Mathivani, P. Madhuri and Siti Nur Azwani Azli fought their way to a 2-1 win over Thailand for the bronze in the women’s team kumite competition.

Malaysia lost to Indonesia 8-10 in their opening tie earlier.

The karate team thus matched their four-gold outing from the Philippines in 2019.

The three other gold medals came from C. Shahmalarani (women’s below 50kg), Sharmendran (men’s below 75kg) and Sureeya (men’s below 67kg).

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