KUALA LUMPUR: The three medal target, including one gold medal, given to the Malaysian contingent headed to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games is a brave but achievable move.
Former National Sports Council (NSC) director-general Datuk Seri Zolkples Embong said the national athletes’ preparations where affected throughout the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, which stopped them from participating in international championships, makes the target a great challenge.
Zolkples, however, did not deny their abilities as there will be those who are capable of creating historic moments in Tokyo and bring cheer to Malaysians as the country continues to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I congratulate the minister on the announcement of the target, something I view as a brave but achievable step. After all, we can’t avoid it as we want to see our national contingent to improve on their previous achievements.
“The prime minister also expressed hope that the national contingent would win the country’s first ever gold medal in Tokyo. Even if we win just a gold medal without any other medal, it will be considered our best Olympic showing,” he told Bernama today.
Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Reezal Merican Naina Merican announced today that the Malaysian contingent to the Tokyo Olympics had a target to win three medals, including a gold medal, with badminton, trek cycling and diving being the main contenders of achieving the target.
At the same time, former Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) secretary-general Datuk Sieh Kok Chi viewed the target as realistic based on the current performance level of the national athletes in the run up to the prestigious sporting event scheduled to take place from July 23 to Aug 8.
Sieh, who is also a OCM honorary member, said the target was achievable through the three sports as national trek cycling champion Datuk Mohd Azizulhasni Awang and diving queen Pandelela Rinong Pamg had won medals previously in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Mohd Azizulhasni won the bronze in the men’s keirin event and Pandelela, who competed in the 10 metre (m) women’s synchronised platform event with her teammate Cheong Jun Hoong, won the silver.
Sieh also reminded athletes to not be nervous during the competition and they would need a high level of confidence to overcome their Olympic rivals.
Meanwhile, national badminton legend Datuk Rashid Sidek felt that Mohd Azizulhasni had better chances compared to other athletes to become the one who would end the country’s Olympic gold medal wait.
The 1996 Atlanta Olympic bronze medal winner also felt that the national badminton squad, especially 2021 All-England champion Lee Zii Jia and men’s doubles pair Aaron Chia-Soh Wooi Yik were capable of pulling off surprises in Tokyo.
“All three players are underdogs this time around, so the pressure will be less, making it possible for them to spring a surprise by defeating well-known players at the Olympics,” he said.
OCM secretary-general Datuk Mohd Nazifuddin Najib, who is tasked with managing the national contingent in Tokyo, said that any athlete who manages to win the country’s first old medal would not only be viewed as a sports champion, but a national hero.
“Even with the lack of championships due to the COVID-19 pandemic, combined with new norms, winning the gold is not something easy although it is our country’s hope,” he said.
During the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, no specific targets were set for the national contingent but Malaysia managed to return with four silver medals and a single bronze.
At this Olympics, 30 athletes representing Malaysia will compete in 27 events covering 10 sports. -BERNAMA