DURING the Azlan Shah Cup in August, the Malaysian hockey team got
hammered because they were not physically fit, so the Malaysia Hockey
Federation (MHF) turned to South Korean mastero Kim Sang-ryul for help.
Kim, with his trademark smiling face, came down and handed the team
management a fitness plan which the players have been religiously
following, and according to 2002 Kuala Lumpur World Cup team manager Datuk
R. Yogeswaran, there has been a marked improvement.
"Kim was in Malaysia last month (Oct 4) to conduct a fitness test and
the results showed that there has been a marked improvement in the team's
physical level after following his programme," said Yogeswaran.
The smile never vanishes from the face of Kim, now acknowledged
worldwide as the mastermind behind his country's emergence as the second
ranked team in the world after the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games silver medal.
That Kim managed a smile even after the penalty shoot-out, against the
Dutch, shattered his team's dreams of striking gold says a lot about his
"The boys have been working hard after the Azlan Shah Cup and although
Kim's programme is not something that we are alien to, the intensity is
much higher than what we used to conduct.
"It was tough for the team to adapt in the first few weeks but now that
they are getting used to rigorous training, they have actually started
enjoying it," said Yogeswaran.
In the eight-team per-group format, fitness will surely separate the top
four and the also rans. For Malaysia, going by the fixtures, fitness will
determine where they finish after the first round.
Malaysia meet Australia first on Feb 24 followed by Japan (Feb 26) and
India (Feb 27). To stay in the running they must at least have two draws
in the first three matches.
Then fitness will come into the picture as they play South Korea (March
1), England (March 2), Cuba (March 4) and wrap up the first round against
Poland (March 5).
"We are going to play seven matches in nine days during the World Cup
and needless to say, the fitness level of the team will have to be at a
super scale level.
The Koreans only took up competitive hockey in the late 1980s to field a
team for the 1988 Seoul Olympics. The Sydney Games was only their third
In under 15 years, Kim has introduced hockey to his nation, masterminded
its emergence on the world arena, and brought them to within a penalty
stroke of Olympic glory.