13 September 2005

Silat team rooting for rookies to surprise opponents

13 Nov 2005, MALAYSIA, Kuala Lumpur - The national silat team will be banking on their new faces to spring a surprise and achieve their target of winning four gold medals at the coming SEA Games in Manila.

Thirteen exponents from the team of 20 will be making their SEA Games debut but chief coach Ahmad Wardi Salim said that all the athletes are capable of winning medals.

“This is the best-prepared team we have had in years. And I feel confident that all of them have a chance of winning medals. We are targeting four gold medals – three from silat olahraga (combat) and one from the seni (artistic).

“My confidence stems from the commitment shown by the athletes especially the rookies. This time around we have decided to go for a young team and have phased out those who are in the 30s. I'm sure the team will do well,” said Ahmad.

He said Malaysia are expecting medals from the rookies and they have the element of surprise on their side.

“Our opponents will not know what to expect from the new faces. We must exploit it. But in the end the exponents must work hard to make it work. We need to be aggressive,” he said.

Only seven of the 20 exponents – Amir Ikram Rahim, Ahmad Shahril Zailuddin, Mohamed Zuber Ismail, Mohamed Azrin Abdul Malek, Siti Jameelah Japilus, Suzy Mohamed Sulaiman and Emy Latip – took part in the Vietnam Games in 2003. Then, Malaysia returned with two gold, two silver and three bronze medals.
The silat team's best medals haul in the Games was in 1991 in Manila. They returned with five golds, five silvers and five bronzes.

Ahmad, world champion in 1987 and 1990, turned to coaching in 1991.

His confidence in the team stemmed from the full-time training since February.

“This is a first for the sport. Our training programme started in February and all the athletes are based in Bukit Jalil. I believe that this has helped the exponents concentrate better and given them the chance to interact and forge better understanding with each other.

“Physically they are in the right shape and there's a sense of optimism when they are training.

“Even those making their debut are putting extra hours in training and working on their own,” he added.
Ahmad said the main opposition for Malaysia would come from the exponents from Vietnam, Indonesia and hosts Philippines.

“From the reports we have gathered, it seems these countries will pose the biggest threat. I have heard that they too will have some young exponents and hence we cannot make any firm assessment on our chances until the draw (on Nov 29) is made,” he added.

“I'm looking for a good outing. This time with full-time training and greater effort I feel that the team can do well. Four gold medals may be our target but I feel we are good enough for more.”

Sourced from http://thestar.com.my/sports/story.asp?file=/2005/11/13/sports/12573680

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