Home pressure a worry for cagers
DEFENDING the Sea Games gold medal on home soil will be the biggest challenge the national women’s basketball team will ever face come August.
While winning gold two years ago in Singapore was a memorable achievement, nothing can compare with securing another gold medal in front of home fans, said team captain Nur Izzati Yaakub.
“When we went to Singapore in 2015 there was no pressure us to win the gold medal because nobody, other than us, were expecting to,” said Izzati in Bukit Jalil yesterday.
“But now we are the defending champions and every team will want to beat us. It’s a huge burden to carry, especially in front of a home crowd.
“Playing on home soil has its advantages and disadvantages but what is important is to use the home crowd support to our advantage, be mentally strong and perform to the best of our abilities.”
With the Philippines strong favourites to retain the men’s gold medal, Malaysia’s hopes of success in the sport rests on the women’s team, who have won gold all three times women’s basketball was contested in Kuala Lumpur in 1977, 1989 and 2001.
“Our team has not changed much since 2015 with the addition of one or two players,” added Nur Izzati, 28. “We know each other very well and the newcomers should have no problems adapting.”
The women’s squad under coach Yoong Sze Yuin recently split a two-match series against the Philippines at the Maba Stadium though neither country fielded their strongest sides.
The team also went on an eight-match tour of Australia earlier this year and returned with a 5-3 record playing against state and club teams.
Sze Yuin said their next tour will be to Japan on May 8-19 for 11 games which they will use to adapt to playing against fastpaced teams.
“In Australia, the teams we faced were physically strong and the players very tall — which was a good experience for us,” said Sze Yuin. “But Japanese teams are fast with sharp shooters and we will see how we cope with that tempo.”
One problem facing Sze Yuin is the knee injury of centre R. Kalaimathi, who is in a race against time to be fit for the Sea Games.
“Kalai’s injury is the most serious which she has been carrying since even before the last Sea Games,” said Sze Yuin. “We need to take good care of her and hope she can recover in time for the Sea Games.” Devinder Singh