Thursday, May 29, 2008

Sarawak out to end Selangor’s 12-year domination

PETALING JAYA: Sarawak have in their Sukma contingent several prominent national athletes and they are looking at ending Selangor's 12-year domination at the 12th edition of the biennial Games in Terengganu.

Selangor have topped the standings since 1996 when they ended Sarawak's reign. Sarawak were the champions for three consecutive editions since 1990 when they were the hosts.

Golden boy: Sarawak are banking on Daniel Bego to deliver in the pool.

The champions of the Games in Terengganu will be decided by the gold medal count instead of points as in previous editions. Sarawak finished second in the standings at the last Games in Kedah and they had a medal haul of 36-42-55. Selangor had a tally of 53-44-56.

The Games in Terengganu are offering 404 gold medals, Sarawak have a contingent of 605 athletes and they will compete in 29 of the 31 sports in the programme.

The Sarawakians, who will not be represented in equestrian and petanque, are strong in athletics and aquatics – the two sports offering many gold medals. There are 45 gold medals at stake in athletics while aquatics offer 48 (38 in swimming and 10 in diving).

A national athlete can compete in a maximum of two individual event and Sarawak have Beijing Olympics-bound Daniel Bego to get gold medals in the men's 200m freestyle and 200m butterfly races. And his presence should help Sarawak challenge strongly for three relay gold medals.

In the women's swimming competitions, Sarawak can bank on two promising youngsters – Erika Kong and Hii Siew Siew in the breaststroke races and 200m butterfly respectively.

Sarawak have in their ranks Beijing-bound diver Bryan Nickson. They also have Elizabeth Jimie and Pandelela Rinong and are odds on favourites to grab the lion's share of the gold medals at stake.

Wushu offers 20 gold medals and this is another sport where Sarawak will be banking on to add to the golden count.

Leading their charge are World Championships silver medallist and Korat SEA Games champion Diana Bong and Loh Jack Chang, who took silver in the Asian Championships in Macau last week.

Sarawak earned four gold medals in Alor Star two years ago but their wushu chief coach James Ting said they were hopeful of a much better haul in Terengganu.

“While the competition now is equally spread out because most of the other states also have Chinese coaches, we will be happy if we can secure a repeat of our performance in 2004 in Kedah where we took home seven gold medals,” he said.

Sarawak athletes have traditionally excelled in field events of the athletics programme and this is expected to continue in Kuala Terengganu while national paddler Chai Kian Beng will lead their charge to extend domination in table tennis.

Other national athletes expected to shine are recurve archer Noor Aziera Taip and golfer Michelle Ting.

Sarawak also have national triathlete and two-time SEA Games champion Kimbeley Yap to help their cause and she will also compete in the women's road cycling time trial.

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