GEORGE TOWN: The Malaysian silat squad will be banking on their experienced hands to exorcise the ghost of the 2007 Korat SEA Games.
Then, the national squad produced their worst ever performance in the history of the SEA Games. They returned from Korat with a meagre 0-1-5 haul. It was the first time Malaysia failed to win a silat gold medal in the biennial Games.
The Malaysian National Silat Federation (Pesaka) are hoping for a more fruitful outing in Vientiane next week.
Although Malaysia will compete in a maximum 12 events allowed for each country, Pesaka have set a modest two-gold target.
They believe that one of the medals will come from silat seni (non-combat) tunggal putri (women’s singles) exponent Suzy Mohd Sulaiman.
The 28-year-old from Pahang, who is a former world champion, will be the country’s sole female silat seni exponent in Laos.
“We will rely on both silat seni and silat olahraga to deliver the golds,” said team manager Osman Nok.
“Since we are only competing in two silat seni events in Vientiane, Suzy is our best bet for success. After enduring a disappointing outing in Korat, she has vowed to go all out to make amends in Laos.”
Besides Suzy, the other Malaysian representatives in silat seni is the Mohd Hafiz Arif-Muhamad Helmi Aziz pair for ganda putra (men’s doubles).
Malaysia will also compete in 10 of the 15 silat olahraga (combat) categories in Laos.
The gold medal contenders are expected to be seasoned hands Faizal Abdullah, Shuhairi Chin, Malini Mohamad and Emy Latip.
In order to get away from the pressure and other distractions, the silat squad spent a month training at Fraser Hill before breaking camp for Hari Raya Haji last week.
“After the disappointing results at the last Games, a two-gold target sounds reasonable for the Laos challenge. We learned a bitter lesson in Korat and will not repeat the mistake of setting sky-high expectations,” said Osman.
“Training in the tranquil setting of Fraser Hill allowed the athletes and coaches to fully focus on the tasks. The weather on the hill is also similar to the chilly conditions expected in Vientiane.”
The games organisers’ decision to limit each country to a maximum of 12 events could turn out to be a blessing in disguise for Malaysia.
“All the 15 exponents who were initially in the Games training squad were forced to fight for their places when the new ruling was announced,” said Osman.
“It was tough to pick the five to be dropped. Those who survived are the cream of the crop and will be serious medal contenders in Laos.”
In Korat, the Malaysian officials pointed the finger at biased judging for their poor results.
But Osman believes the controversy has been put to bed and will not recur in Vientiane.
“Malaysia were among those who fought to rectify the shortcomings in the judging system. Steps have been taken by the silat affiliates in the region to prevent a repeat of the problems faced in Korat,” he said.
“I believe we don’t have to worry too much as the judging at the recent Asean Indoor Games in Vietnam was satisfactory and fair to all participating countries.”Malaysia’s traditional rivals Vietnam and Indonesia are once again expected to start as favourites in the competitions offering a total of 19 gold medals. STAR