Touch of China in bid to win men’s goalball gold

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Malaysia are ready to dethrone South East Asian goalball kingpins and defending champions Thailand in the men’s goalball in the 9th Asean Para Games in Kuala Lumpur.

Thailand have won the gold since 2005 and Malaysia believe they have the material to snatch the gold on home turf and put an end to Thailand’s domination in the sport.

The Goalball Association of Malaysia have left no stone unturned in their bid for the gold. Coach Abdul Karim Raham said this is the “best prepared team” to compete in the Para Games.

“Intensive training began began in June with a training stint in China, rated one of the best goalball teams in the world,” said Abdul Karim.

The Chinese women are ranked No 2 in the world while men are ranked No 4 and this speaks of China’s might in the sport.

“We have had enough of being second best to Thailand. To break Thailand’s dominance the Malaysian team was sent to China to train with the Chinese Paralympic teams. 

“As hosts for this year’s Para Games we are aiming for the gold medal in the men’s competition.

“The stint in China was worth every sen. We not only acquired new techniques and strategies in game play from one of the world’s best goalball sides but gained in confidence,” said Abdul Karim.

In the same breath Abdul Karim said the Malaysian teams have “studied the moves of our main competitor Thailand” during a spying mission when the Thais hosted a tournament in Bangkok recently.

“Judging from the way our team has progressed and the way Thailand has played, I believe we do have a high chance of winning this time.

Abdul Karim added that the men’s team did well in China sparring with China’s seniors and juniors and did well to reach the semi-final stages of a two-day tournament.

The Goalball event will have three players a side to throw the belled balls, weighing 1.25kg, from one end to the other and defend a 9m goalpost in a 19m by 18m court in complete silence.

“The sport is a special event for the visually impaired athletes where they are blind folded with goggles and eye patches. The players rely on their hearing abilities to detect the belled balls.

“It requires a lot of physical strength and the athletes have worked extra hard on their fitness and stamina,” explained Abdul Karim.

Muhd Haiqal Azani Azma, a two-time silver medallist in the sport, who was present at the press conference, expressed confidence that Malaysia will rise to the occasion and deliver the elusive gold medal.

“We feel a lot more confident now after preparing hard at the gym and sparring with the world’s best.

“I think we’ve learned a lot and it has made a big difference to our game play. On top of that, we noticed that there hasn’t been much changes to Thailand’s style of play.

“In Singapore, we realised that we are capable of putting on a fight. The gap in terms of standards is not that far apart although Thailand are ranked world No.20 and we’re about 20 rungs below,” said Haiqal.

Meanwhile, Malaysian will make the debut in the women’s goalball and are tipped to win the bronze medal at least. BY ALVIN OH KAI ZHEN 

 

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