Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Aquatics get A boost


PETALING JAYA: For the first time in the history of the SEA Games, all the swimmers and divers in the Malaysian contingent will compete in Laos as Category A (fully funded) athletes.

The Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) have approved the initial entries by numbers for sports and the endorsement is a boost to Malaysia’s hopes of another successful outing in the pool.

The Amateur Swimming Union of Malaysia (Asum) secretary, Edwin Chong, said that 22 swim­mers and 10 divers will be going to the December Games.

Aquatics and athletics are the only sports exempted from the quota ruling on the total participation of athletes as the Laos organisers trimmed down the Games.

“We are delighted that OCM have agreed to place all the swimmers and divers under Category A this time,” he said.

“The number of swimmers are more or less the same as in the last Games in Korat but we have requested for one extra diver, bringing the squad to 10.

“While we have more or less confirmed the swimmers, we are still looking at some of the younger divers for synchronised events. We intend to test the divers at the Malaysian Invita­tional Open in Kuala Lumpur next month.”

Edwin added that the final list would be submitted before the end of October.

Aquatics contributed a total of 14 gold medals for Malaysia at the 2007 Korat Games, the biggest haul by a sport in the contingent.

Swimming and diving contributed seven gold medals each. But Edwin said that a repeat of the achievement was not expected in Laos.

“Lew Yih Wey has quit and will not be defending her women’s 200m backstroke title. It will be difficult for us to match the haul as Singapore, especially their women, have made tre­men­dous progress and should dominate,” he said.

“In diving, we expect to do well but we have lost two golds as the 1m springboard events have been dropped from the programme.

“We have told OCM that a comfortable target is eight gold medals. Whether we can bring home more will depend on the form of our athletes on the day.”

If the performances at the world championships provide any indications, swimmers Daniel Bego and United States-based Siow Yi Ting are safe bets for gold medals in their strong events.

Malaysia will be banking on the experience of divers Yeoh Ken Nee and Bryan Nickson along with world championships bronze medallists Leong Mun Yee and Pandelela Rinong to challenge for the eight gold medals at stake.

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