S’wak all out to defend MSSM throne in Ipoh

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ALL SET: State athletes warming up for the last session of their centralised training camp at SMK Tabuan Jaya Sports Complex on Tuesday morning.

Everyone is enjoying themselves in the training and we are very united. No one feels he or she is from Kuching, Miri or Sibu but as 1Sarawak. Lim Eng Hooi, Sarawak contingent chief coach

KUCHING: Sarawak are all set to defend their crown and capture their 15th title at the 53rd Malaysian Schools Sports Council (MSSM) Track and Field Championship in Ipoh, Perak starting today and ending next Tuesday.

Chief coach Lim Eng Hooi said the state athletes are capable of retaining the overall championship title they won in Terengganu last year after capturing 24 gold, 20 silver and 15 bronze medals at the Larkin Stadium in Johor Bahru, Johor last May.

“I am quite confident that the team, although comprising mainly of new faces, can win again in Ipoh,” he said when met at the closing of the three-week centralised training for the state team at SMK Tabuan Jaya Sports Complex on Tuesday.

According to Lim, the preparation for the national championship had gone smoothly and everybody was happy and in high spirit.

“Everyone — the athletes, the coaches and the officials — is enjoying themselves in the training and we are very united. No one feels he/she is from Kuching, Miri or Sibu but as 1Sarawak,” he said.

Lim said the training was even programmed to match the competition dates of the meet so that the athletes could easily adapt when competing in Ipoh.

“This is the first time MSSM is holding the championship over five days starting from Friday and ending on Tuesday. Previously the championship is run over four days,” he said.

Lim said Sarawak might not have the services of the past medal winners in the U-18 category like Ambrose Jilom, Jackie Wong, Kee Siew Lian and Casier Renee Lee this year but the state team still have potential winners.

“We will depend more on the group B (13-15 years old) and C (under-12) to get the medals and we are a balanced team because we are both strong in track and field events,” he added.

Medal bets include Grace Wong, Evelyn Francis, Nixson Kennedy, Nur Aisah Ahmat and Reon Nathaniel.

Lim expects it would be tough to defend the title as other states especially the host Perak who have set a 21-gold target are all eager to dethrone Sarawak again.

In 2009, seven-time consecutive champions Sarawak were dethroned by Terengganu when they only garnered 10 golds, 15 silvers and eight bronzes to finish fourth compared to the latter’s 13 golds, six silvers and 13 bronzes. Kelantan were the runners-up with 11 gold, seven silvers and one silver while Kedah finished third with 11 golds, five silvers and eight bronzes.

Last year’s runners-up Johor and third-placed Sabah are all aiming to give Sarawak a good run for their money.

The Sarawak contingent of 85 athletes, 20 coaches and six officials is managed by Hassan Wa’Gani, who is also the principal of SMK Tabuan Jaya State Sports School.

Miri District Education Officer Rosnani Yunus is the contingent leader while the assistant chief coach is Christopher Tingkai and also accompanying the team is Sarawak Schools Sports Council (MSSS) technical and development officer Ting Siew Nguong.