DESPERATELY short of gold medal prospects, Malaysian track and field could lose another as Noraseela Khalid battles to be fit before the Sea Games athletics programme begins at the National Stadium in Vientiane today.
Team manager A. Subramaniam had to act to squash rumours that Noraseela would withdraw from the 400 metres and 400m hurdles and deal the athletics squad another blow.
The official Laos Sea Games website quoted Malaysian Amateur Athletics Union (MAAU) deputy president Karim Ibrahim as saying that Noraseela had injured her Achilles tendon but Subramaniam contradicted that yesterday.
"I don't know where these rumours began but I would like to say that there is no truth in them. Noraseela did suffer some pain in her leg but she herself confirmed that she is ready to run.
"She has since recovered and will run her two events as scheduled," said Subramaniam.
Noraseela, 30, is expected to win Malaysia's first athletics gold medal when she lines up for the 400m hurdles final this evening.
Apart from Noraseela, Malaysian interest on the first day of athletics is restricted to the women's 100m and men's triple jump and shot put but medals are only a remote possibility.
Nor is the gold-chase expected to pick up steam tomorrow with only the men's 800m of any interest to Malaysia where medals are concerned.
The withdrawals of defending champions Yuan Yufang (women's 20km walk) and Rayzam Shah Wan Sofian (men's 110m hurdles) have seriously compromised athletics' ability to deliver gold but that has not stopped MAAU president Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim from ambitiously targeting eight gold medals.