RIO DE JANEIRO – Malaysia’s 28 million people will be rooting for the 32-athlete
to end the 60-year wait for the elusive gold medal when the Rio Olympic Games
begin here today (Friday in Rio).
Since the 1956 Melbourne Games, Malaysia had recorded a total of six medals
with five from badminton and a bronze from diving queen, Pandelela Rinong.
In Rio, the nation has its eyes on badminton star, Datuk Lee Chong Wei, who
is expected to end his bridesmaid role to two-time champion Lin Dan of China in
the two previous final in 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Games.
Bidding farewell in his fourth Olympics appearance, the 33-year-old aging
icon is all geared up in a do or die mission to bring Malaysia’s greatest glory
However, the road to clinch the elusive gold medal is padded with torns when
he is expected to face his nemesis Lin Dan in the semi-finals and if possibly
through, then Chen Long, another Chinese, the world number two who is tipped to
step in the shoes of ‘Super Dan’.
Chong Wei admits feeling more pressure ahead of his final campaign for that
elusive Olympic gold medal to cap his stellar career.
“I want to cherish my dreams here,” he told Bernama at the Games Village a
few days ago.
Either Lin Din will create history as a triple gold medalist or Chong Wei
also for a triple silver medalist remains to be seen as Chen Long stands an
outside chance to spoil the party for the two most celebrated shuttlers.
Besides Chong Wei, the Malaysian contingent also banked hopes on
Melbourne-based track cyclist Azizulhasni Awang in the keirin event but it could
be a tall order as German’s Joachim Eilers and New Zealander Eddie Dawkins
remain as hot favourites.
Malaysia’s chef-de-mission, Tan Sri Mohamad Al Amin Abdul Majid feels the
pressure to lead the nation’s first gold medal and refused to reveal the target
despite constant questions about it.
“I would say, we will do better than the London Olympics with few surprises
in store,” he said.
Whether the surprises could be a better haul or disastrous in Rio will only
be seen after the games draw the curtain on Aug 21.
On the other hand, Pandelela, despite maintaining a low profile in the run
up to the games, is touted to end Malaysia’s wait for the gold medal in the 10m
The Sarawak-born diver has put the country on the aquatic sporting map
numerous times since her gold medal plunge at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New
At the London Olympics four years ago, she became the first woman athlete
from Malaysia to stand on an Olympic podium after taking bronze in the 10m
This time around could see the 23-year-old lass making the podium for the
second time – with a new synchro partner in Cheong Jun Hoong.
The combination’s consistency has enabled them to claim silver at the Diving
World Cup in Rio in February and certainly a medal of any colour is not beyond
If Pandelela can perform at the decisive moments, then she can be a double
medallist in Rio.
Archery comprising trio Khairul Anuar Mohamad, Haziq Kamaruddin and Muhammad
Akmal Nor Hasrin is seen as the surprise factor in the men’s team recurve event.
However, bursting into the semi-final stage would be considered an
achievement as archery giant, South Korea is tipped to win the gold medal and
United States and home team, Brazil are up for medal contention.
Golf returns to the Olympics after a 112-year absence with Danny Chia and
Gavin Kyle Green strolling alongside women’s Michelle Koh and Kelly Tan.
Sailor Khairulnizam Mohd Afendy will be attempting his second Olympic
campaign after finishing 47 out of 49 sailors in London while it would be the
debut for Malaysian women sailor, Nur Shazrin Mohd Latif.
National shooter Jonathan Wong will have to improve his personal best in the
10m and 50m air pistol while national sole weighlifter Mohd Hafifi Mansor is
tipped to rewrite his national record in the 69kg category.
In swimming, Welson Sim is set to compete in the 200m and 400m freestyle
along with Phee Jinq Eng in the women’s 100m breaststroke and Heidi Gan in the
women’s marathon swimming.
In athletics, high jumper Nauraj Singh Randhawa will attempt to break his
own national mark of 2.29m while wildcard entrant, Zaidatul Husniah Zulkifli is
expected to gain exposure in the 100m heats.
Malaysia’s challenge will begin as soon as Chong Wei carries the Jalur
Gemilang into the historic Maracana Stadium at the opening ceremony.
Malaysians of all races will certainly rally behind the national heroes as
they battle for glory in the world’s biggest sporting show on earth. – Bernama