FROM a sport that delivered 10 gold medals in the 1989 Kuala Lumpur Sea Games, taekwondo has been reduced to relying on winning gold medals by avoiding exponents from other countries.
Which is why, anything less than two gold medals, given the support and special arrangements that have been made, will be considered a failure for the national taekwondo team in the Sea Games.
Both gold medals are expected to come from the two elite members of the Gemilang 2006 Special Project squad, Elaine Teo and Chee Chew Chan in the women's bantamweight and middleweight categories respectively.
In fact, team officials, with the support of the National Sports Council (NSC) and Olympic Council of Malaysia, have gone to the extent of "forcing" Noornadia Norrizan, who was the sole Malaysian to win a gold — in the bantamweight category — in the Asean Championships last year, to compete in a lighter weight category to accommodate Elaine.
Elaine was initially expected to compete in the flyweight category but will now compete in the heavier category as the team officials believe she can guarantee a gold medal in the bantamweight category.
Which means Noornadia will now compete in the flyweight category.
Malaysia's sole gold medal came two years ago via Lim Yit Min after Elaine could not even take to the ring (and had to settle for a bronze medal) as she was injured.
Which is why the pressure is now on coach R. Dhanaraj and Moi Chee Keong to better the 2003 haul.
Elaine and Chew Chan are part of the 138-strong elite athletes under the Gemilang 2006 Special Project squad which is for athletes who are potential medallists at next year's Commonwealth Games in Melbourne or the Asian Games in Doha, Qatar.
Taekwondo is among a few select sports that is actually world class when it comes to the Sea Games, and Manila will provide a perfect platform for the national exponents, especially Elaine and Chew Chan, to gauge their standard and progress in the region.
Vietnam, the Philippines and Thailand have world class exponents and if Malaysia harbour any hopes of winning medals in Doha next year, they have to win in Manila.
Which is why team officials were so afraid of Elaine meeting Thailand's Athens Olympic Games bronze medallist Yaowapa Boorapolchai, that the former was allowed to move up to a heavier category at the expense of Noornadia.
But in doing this, another problem has cropped up in the form of Noornadia needing to shed four kilogrammes of her body weight to enable her to compete in the flyweight category.
The flyweight is for those in the 47kg-51kg bracket while the bantamweight is for those in the 51kg-55kg.
Team manager K. M. Rajendran expressed confidence that Noornadia will be able to lose her weight, but whether the team can deliver two gold medals remains to be seen.
Source from http://www.nst.com.my