Chong Wei, Nicol head gold quest

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s team heads to the Asian Games with high hopes of bagging plenty of gold medals, with badminton world number one Datuk Lee Chong Wei and squash star Datuk Nicol David once again leading the charge.

FROM LEFT: Datuk Nicole David, Datuk Lee Chong Wei

But they also have decent chances in bowling, cycling, martial arts and sepaktakraw.

Chong Wei, who won the Commonwealth Games singles title this month, was a doubt for Guangzhou after picking up an ankle injury but has resumed training and is hopeful of travelling to China.

Fans are keen to see him there, with the potential of a mouthwatering final between Chong Wei and long-time arch-rival Lin Dan of China.

Hafiz Hashim is the second ranked Malaysian shuttler and he also has a medal chance, although Lin, South Korean Park Sung-Hwan and Japan’s Kenichi Tago are on his side of the draw.

“I may meet Park or Tago in the second round. My aim is to try to win at least a bronze and it will be very tough indeed,” said Hafiz.

Malaysia is also fancied in the men’s doubles, with Koo Kien Keat and Tan Boon Heong defending their title, but they face the might of China on home turf.

Nicol is a virtual certainty for gold, having followed up her Commonwealth Games victory by chalking up her eighth consecutive Women’s International Squash Association title in Mexico last week.

The five-time world champion, who has been world number one since August 2006, has few serious challengers in Guangzhou, with the next best Asian woman being Hong Kong’s Annie Au down at 17 in the rankings.

The country also has high hopes for Josiah Ng, who made Malaysian track cycling history with a gold medal winning performance at the Commonwealth Games.

Ng won the keirin event and is pumped up for another golden show in China.

Also on the team is Azizul Hasni Awang, the man who crossed the line ahead of Ng in Delhi only to be disqualified for a dangerous spinting move.

“It used to be Azizul along taking the pressure but I’m glad I have got my level up at the right time,” Ng told local media.

The only time Malaysia has previously won gold medals in Asian Games cycling was 40 years ago.

While Malaysia has plenty of gold medal chances, they will be without Commonwealth 56kg weightlifting champion Amirul Hamizan Inrahim, who has pulled out because of a thigh injury.

Their only other weightlifter left, Aricco Jumitih, is also a doubt with a back complaint.

Field hockey is another event in which Malaysia can make the podium.

The Malaysian bowlers, meanwhile, are top class and won three gold and three silver at the last Asiad in Doha four years ago. — AFP

Team captain Shalin Zulkifli, who made her Asian Games debut in 1994, said she was expecting even more from Guangzhou. — AFP

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