Gold drought since 1973

New Straits Times - - Sport -

TEN­NIS is a reg­u­lar fea­ture in the Sea Games but sadly the gold medal has re­mained elu­sive for Malaysia since the 1973 edi­tion.

And it is not about to change in the Kuala Lumpur Sea Games at Na­tional Ten­nis Cen­tre on Aug 21-26.

Five gold medals are at stake, and, as usual, the top con­tenders are the play­ers from Thailand, In­done­sia and the Philip­pines with Viet­nam and Cam­bo­dia be­ing the other favourites.

Radhika Menon and Lim Kheow Suen re­main as Malaysia’s only cham­pi­ons in the Sea Games. They achieved it in the women’s dou­bles event at the 1973 Sin­ga­pore edi­tion.

Khoo Chin Bee came close on sev­eral oc­ca­sions. She won the women’s sin­gles silver medal in the 1995 Chi­ang Mai edi­tion, fol­lowed by bronze medals in 1997 (Jakarta), 1999 (Brunei) and 2001 (KL).

She and Si Yew Meng also took the mixed dou­bles bronze medal in the 2003 (Viet­nam) edi­tion, which is also Malaysia’s last medal in an in­di­vid­ual event at the Sea Games.

Since then, Malaysia have won bronze medals in the men’s and women’s team events.

It is dumb­found­ing that the men’s and women’s team events will not be con­tested this time as Malaysia have been suc­cess­ful in win­ning medals in them.

With only the in­di­vid­ual events (men’s and women’s sin­gles and dou­bles, and mixed dou­bles) of­fer­ing medals, Malaysia are in danger of not fin­ish­ing on the podium in their own back­yard.

Jawairiah No­ordin and S. Theiviya are seen as Malaysia’s best hope for at least a bronze medal in the women’s dou­bles.

The pair did well in 2016 by win­ning the dou­bles ti­tles in the fifth leg of the Sharm El Sheikh Open and also bagged a bronze medal in the Is­lamic Sol­i­dar­ity Games in Baku, Azer­bai­jan in May.

How­ever, Jawairiah and Theiviya are not in their best con­di­tions for the Sea Games. Jawairiah is re­cov­er­ing from a right knee in­jury while Theiviya is bat­tling shoul­der and an­kle prob­lems.

The Pe­nang-born Jawairiah is re­garded as an ‘un­touch­able’ in women’s ten­nis in Malaysia, but she has yet to make a last­ing im­pres­sion in­ter­na­tion­ally in the sin­gles event.

Jawairiah has never won an in­di­vid­ual medal in the Sea Games.

Her best achieve­ments were the team bronze medals in the 2007 (Ko­rat), 2009 (Vientiane) and 2015 (Sin­ga­pore) edi­tions.

She also played in the 2011 Palem­bang edi­tion but failed to finish on the podium.

Na­tional coach Muliyadi Ja­mal hopes for good draws in the Sea Games.

“Of course, Jawairiah and The­viya are our main hope in the women’s dou­bles. They are ranked fourth among the pairs regis­tered for the Sea Games,” said Muliyadi.

“Both are re­cov­er­ing from in­juries. They are 95 per cent ready for the chal­lenge.

“Train­ing is go­ing well. We are now fo­cus­ing on build­ing the play­ers’ men­tal strength. They need to play with­out fear to achieve tar­gets.”

On the newly laid courts at Na­tional Ten­nis Cen­tre, Muliyadi said his play­ers have tried them out.

“The ball trav­els slightly slower in four of the eight courts that will be used for the Sea Games. The play­ers have adapted to the slow con­di­tions,” Muliyadi added.

Among the top play­ers en­tered for the Sea Games are In­done­sia’s Christo­pher Rungkat, Thailand’s Rati­watana sib­lings, San­chai and Son­chat, and Nop­pawan Lertchee­wakarn, Cam­bo­dia’s Kenny Bun, Katha­rina Lehn­ert of the Philip­pines, and Viet­nam’s Ly Hoang Nam, the 2015 Wim­ble­don Ju­niors boys’ dou­bles cham­pion.

S. Theiviya

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