KUCHING: It will be an uphill task for Sarawak in the five-team Sukma rhythmic gymnastics competition which begins at MBKS Indoor Stadium from today to tomorrow.
The five state gymnasts, only aged between 12 and 13, will not only be facing older and more experienced challengers but also national gymnasts from the other four teams namely Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Pahang and Perak.
They are 13-year olds Angeline Teo Jia Mei, Emilie Nara Zi Yi Jabu, Sarah Ng Xi Yan and 12-year olds Bonnie Tan Yee Wen and Rachel Wang Qian Yii.
“We have a very young and unexperienced team who will all be making their Sukma debut,” said Sarawak Amateur Gymnastics Association (Sagma) president Helena Christine Wee.
When compared to other states, the sport was introduced to Sarawak much later after it was competed in Sukma in 1986.
Wee is looking to Sukma 2018 in Perak and Sukma 2020 in Terengganu where the gymnasts will be older and matured to challenge for gold medals.
“We will try our very best and hopefully with the home ground advantage and supporters, capture at least a bronze medal in the individual events and I am confident that this is possible as long as our gymnasts do not commit errors during the competition,” she said.
There are only five gold medals offered in the team, rope, hoop, ball and clubs.
Wee said Sarawak rhythmic gymnastics was at its peak from 2002 to 2008 but had never won a gold medal in Sukma.
In Sabah Sukma in 2002, Sarawak won a silver through Shaleen Tay and a bronze through Wong Poh Kee apart from finishing fourth in the team event.
In 2006 Sukma, Lydia Wong brought home a silver and helped the state team to capture a team bronze.
Two years later, Lydia improved her performance by bagging two silver medals, which was Sarawak’s best achievement to date.
In the Pahang Sukma in 2012, Sarawak could only make it to the finals in the individual events and did not field a team for the Perlis Sukma two years ago as the gymnasts were still too young.
Wee said the national gymnasts had the advantage of undergoing professional and full time training at the national training centre in Bukit Jalil as well as having participated in several international competitions.
The only exposure that the state gymnasts had was the Hangzhou International Rhythmic Gymnastic Championships in China in November last year where they brought back four gold, three silver and six bronze medals.
They have also benefited from a four-week training stint with the national team from June 3-29.
“Our gymnasts have improved a lot from this training stint where they also took ballet classes to improve their flexibility, power and balance.
“What they have lacked in experience will be compensated by their enthusiasm, fighting spirit and team spirit,” added Wee.