Media spotlight.. Abdul Azim (orange stripes) mobbed at the corridors of Olympic Council of Malaysia. KUALA LUMPUR: Seventeen sports associations tried their luck to travel to the Asian Games in Jakarta for free, but the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) were in no mood to hand out Hari Raya ang-pows yesterday. Games Chef-de-mission Datuk Seri Abdul Azim Zabidi said they stood by the fourth-best mark for qualification on merit. Athletes who travel on Category A will be fully sponsored while those who go to the Games on Category B will have to boot their own expenses, and need to win a medal to be reimbursed. "We received 17 appeals but only entertained the addition of three officials and 10 athletes, while many were rejected based on their ranking and past achievements. "Athletes or teams need to be fourth best in Asia to travel on A, while the rest will go on B. Earlier our contingent was 570 athletes and officials, and now 583, which is still a manageable size," said Abdul Azim at Wisma OCM. Women's hockey, earlier reported to be in category A, will travel on B, if the Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) is willing to foot expenses. "Women's hockey is ranked fifth in Asia and the earlier confusion was because they had finished fourth in the Asian Champions Trophy, but that was not one of the tournaments used as a yardstick. "They appealed, but we said no to them," said Abdul Azim. Among the other notable sports' appeals to Caregory A which were rejected are -- men's soccer, women's badminton team, men's three-on-three basketball, handball, kabaddi, silat, sepak takraw, shooting, artistic swimming, table-tennis, jet-ski and rugby. And with a bigger number of athletes than the previous Games in Incheon, Abdul Azim expects the number of medals to be about the same or more than the 33 won. "We will have more athletes than 2104 in South Korea, so realistically, I will be expecting them to at least win 33 or more medals in Jakarta," said Abdul Azim. Malaysia won 5-14-14 in South Korea. And on the drink diving issue, Abdul Azim feels an apology from the national divers is enough said, and done. "The divers have apologised, and so they will be competing in the Asian Games. Period." Three Podium Programme divers — Pandelela Rinong, Nur Dhabitah Sabri and Chew Yiwei — as well as four juniors Jellson Jabillin, Gabriel Gilbert Daim and Kimberly Bong and Tracy Vivian Tukiet were involved in a party during the Chinese New Year, where they consumed beer.
Kirandeep Kaur (left) playing against boys at the recent Matador HC tournament at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil. KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian women's coach K.Dharmaraj wants nothing but gold in the Hockey Series Open starting in Singapore today. Malaysia, at world n 22, will open accounts against Indonesia (no ranking) while the other teams are Hong Kong (world no 43), Kazakhstan (34th), Thailand (28th) and Singapore (35th). Not one to boast without a reason, Dharmaraj cautioned his charges to be confident, but at the same time respect their opponents. "We are the highest ranked team here and are expected to win the tournament even though the top-two qualify for the next round," said Dharmaraj. "But then again, we need to respect every team as overconfidence can cause many problems." Hockey Series Open is a rebranding exercse by the International Hockey Federation (FIH) and was known as World League Round One. It serves an an Olympic qualifier. For the record, Malaysia hosted the World League Round Two last year and won a silver medal against much higher ranked teams. And on Indonesia: "Our opening match will be very interesting as Indonesia is coached by Malaysian (M.) Mahendran. Although they are not ranked by the FIH, we will not underestimate them." Dharmaraj also included 15-year-old Kirandeep Kaur in the squad, a player who will earn her first international cap. "Kiran proved during training she is no pushover even though she is only 15, and she is not here for a holiday. She can expect to be utilised when a game situation warrants," said Dharmaraj. Whatever the outcome in Singapore, Kirandeep has made history for herself as becoming the youngest player to be selected for Malaysia's senior side.
Sports Journalist with the New Straits Times since 1994.
My main beat is field hockey, so this blog will have stories that I have written for the NST, as well as hockey news from around the globe. There will be regular updates. I was also the Secretary General of the National Press Club, Malaysia for three terms (six years).