THE retirement of newly-wed bowler Zandra Aziela Ibrahim Hakimi has left a vacant spot in the national back-up squad.
With the 27-year-old out, only Alisha Iman Cheong, Siti Aishatun Husin, Hee Kar Yen, Sharon Koh and Victoria Chin are left in the squad and the Malaysian Tenpin Bowling Congress (MTBC) have yet to decide on Zandra’s replacement.
Sarawakian duo – Nadine Kong and Dayang Khairuniza Dhiyana Abang Jamalidon – are the early favourites to fill the berth.
Nadine, a member of national youth squad will eye a promotion while Khairuniza aims to return to the team she was part of last year.
At last month’s National Trial, Nadine and Khairuniza, completed a gruelling 72 games series in six days just outside the top 14, at 15th and 16th respectively.
The top-eight made the elite squad with six in the back-up team.
It is not known how the MTBC will make their judgement this time but Nadine, based on her position, would be the clear-cut candidate.
But Khairuniza, arguably the most notable absentee from this year national set-up, deserves a shot either.
The 22-year-old Khairuniza had a good year last year, winning the women’s Masters title at Commonwealth Championship Masters and finishing runner-up at Malaysian Open.
She was also a member of silver medal-winning in team event at Incheon Asian Indoor Games.
“I thought I didn’t do too badly last year, but just because of one bad week (at the National Trial), I lost my place in the national team,” said Khairuniza, whose biggest feat was finishing second in the DHC International Championship in Japan, striking rich with RM117,000 pay cheque two years ago.
“I couldn’t perform during the Trial due to diarrhoea. I suffered for three days.
“I only recovered on the last day, but it was too late,” lamented Khairuniza.