AFTER all the commotion about the national taekwondo team’s participation for this year’s Sea Games in Laos, there are fears that all of it (the controversies) may well be a lost cause as Malaysia stand a chance of not bringing home a single gold medal for the first time time in the history of the biennial Games.
One of the nation’s most controversy-plagued sports, taekwondo in the country has been heading downhill on the fast lane ever since the Malaysian Taekwondo Association (MTA) deregistration in 2005 by then Sports Commisioner Tan Sri Elyas Omar.
Even since then, the taekwondo sparring team have done reasonably by clinching two gold medals at each of the last two games in Manila (2005) and Korat (2007). But this time the scenario is quite a bit different. The team have been starved of international assignments and have been to only one overseas tournament for the whole of this year which was the World Taekwondo Championships in Copenhagen, Denmark in September.
But with the world championships being an elite meet, only four of the team’s best were sent to the land of the Vikings ... and each member of that quartet (Rusfredy Tokan Petrus, Ryan Chong, Afifuddin Omar and Elaine Teo) all came back empty-handed as early round casualties.
Although the Sea Games and World Championships are a vast difference in parity, it was an indication of the suffering state the local standards of taekwondo is in. With Elaine, two time Olympian, looking past her prime, the national team took a bold step by reinstating another ‘way past her prime’ exponent in heavyweight Lee Wan Yuen who retired from the sport three years ago.
Due credit on the comeback attempt but Wan Yuen is not really the answer for the team’s gold medal quest. The best bet for a gold should in fact be Che Chew Chan but she has been crocked with a naggling knee injury which makes her fitness and medal aspirations suspect.
With so much to ponder about the team which he will be bringing with him to Vientiane next month, head coach R. Dhanaraj concedes that the Games this time will be tougher not only because his team have been deprived of international bouts exposure but also because of the organisers’ decision to impose a limit in participation for the sport.
“As it is it was always going be be difficult from the start with all the problems which have been haunting us here. There are 16 gold medals at stake in sparring events but we can only have a team of five men and five women.
“Obviously only the cream of the crop have earned the ticket to Laos. Nothing has been or will be compromised when it comes to things like this. With all said and done, I believe that my players will be able to at least match the two golds earned at the last two Games,” said Dhanaraj.MMAIL