KUCHING: Community Wellbeing Assistant Minister Datuk Francis Harden Hollis has high expectations and hopes for the Sarawak lawn bowls team to do well in Johor Para Sukma next April.
He is confident that the 12-member team comprising six men and six women bowlers are capable of winning gold medals and helping the Sarawak contingent to retain the overall championship title.
“We will be sending the biggest lawn bowls team ever to Para Sukma. With the dedicated guidance from six coaches and the way I look at the athletes bowl just now, they are very close to hitting their targets, I am very confident they can be victorious in the lawn bowls competition,” he said after visiting the state para lawn bowlers in the resumption of their official training at the Sarawak Lawn Bowls Arena late Wednesday.
The Simanggang assemblyman was accompanied by Sarawak Sports Corporation (SSC) chief executive officer Dr Ong Kong Swee, State Disabled Persons Sports and Recreation Association (Pesron) president Matthew Chin Hiong Choi, who is also Para Sukma coordinator, and representatives from other state para associations.
Harden hoped all athletes and coaches as well as officials will observe strictly the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) during this challenging period.
“I would like to thank the Sarawak government for its undivided support for the para athletes as well support from SSC and the Sarawak State Sports Council and all parties concerned in the state’s bid to become overall champions for the 14th consecutive time,” he added.
“It is not easy for all the athletes especially those from outstation to come here for intensive training and I hope all the athletes for other events can resume their respective training,” said Harden.
Lawn bowls team manager Adzohari Jamil also expressed optimism for the bowlers to do well and hoped they would be able to contribute the first gold medals in lawn bowls for the state contingent.
“This is the first time that we are sending so many bowlers who are all new faces and the first time that we are fielding bowlers for the blind categories.
“We won a bronze medal in the Para Sukma Pahang and I am confident that our young bowlers can strike some medals in the B1 and B2 categories,” he said.
Meanwhile, head coach Nurul Asma Sani said the training for the bowlers was on track despite the imposition of the Movement Control Order (MCO).
“We actually started training in February this year but the normal training was interrupted with the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and the implementation of MCO in March. However, the athletes continued with their online physical and fitness training at home and the normal training at the stadium only resumed officially today,” she said.
“It is quite a challenging task for me and my fellow coaches because this is the first time that we are coaching blind athletes.
“But they are fast learners and very committed in the training,” she admitted.
Sarawak will be represented by Hazel Sigang Daud, Dayangku Aisah Awang Taha, Norhasfalinda Hamdan, Nur Azreen Azirah Mohamad Azelan, Sun Wan Ting and Then Chew Yen in the women’s team.
The men’s team is consists of Ahmad Bashirun Ismail, Mahathir Mohammad, Muhammad Azfar Fairuz Medin, Nischal Nischolas Bujang and Abdul Waled Jais.
They are coached by Saiful Adli Sami, Siti Nadiahusna Saimi, Mohd Fairus Abang Deni, Nur Fithri Yaani Hamdin and Rosman Majunit.
Sarawak will take part in all 10 events in Johor Para Sukma which are archery, athletics, badminton, boccia, chess, lawn bowls, powerlifting, table tennis, tenpin bowling and swimming.