Monday, April 14, 2008
Could Malaysia's Hockey Team Have Qualified For Beijing Olympics?
Yesterday's copy of The Star had a glaring headline on its back page: ROBBED. This was when Japan scored a 68th minute goal to draw 3-3 with Malaysia in the Olympic qualifiers in Kakamigahara, Japan. The thing is, were they robbed of their victory and a place in the final? Most probably yes. Were they robbed of their place in the Beijing Olympics? Most probably not.
Contrary to football, hockey matches only last 70 minutes spreaded over two halves, there are strictly no extra-time and the with the blow of a whistle, the referee has the authority to stop the clock just like in basketball.
Just a week or two ago, team veteran Jiwa Mohan personally pointed out that the Malaysian team has a real knack of "falling asleep" during the last ten minutes of the match. Looks like this nasty habit won't be going away soon.
Take a look at their 5-match performance (source here and here):
Malaysia 2 - 1 Poland (eventually got 4th place)
Malaysia 4 - 4 Italy (5th)
Malaysia 0 - 3 Germany (1st)
Malaysia 4 - 3 Switzerland (6th)
Malaysia 3 - 3 Japan (2nd)
They ended up defeating Poland 3-0 in the classification for 3rd place.
Back in 1998 Malaysia won a silver in the Commonwealth Games, and a bronze in the 2002 Asian Games. At one point they were even candidates to qualify for the semi-finals of the 2000 Sydney Olympics. With the kind of performance in Kakamigahara recently, did they even have a snowball's chance in hell of getting to the Olympics?
You know what? Let's not just bash the hockey team, I'm sure they had enough of kicking themselves for not playing at their best consistently. For the national football team, getting them to rise 50 places in FIFA's world ranking is practically a fool's errand. Asking the badminton players to bring back a gold medal in Beijing is almost impossible now. Even former Olympic silver medallists like Korean shuttler Shon Seung-mo have faded into obscurity in the badminton circuit, just like Muhammad Hafiz Hashim's performance after winning the 2003 All-England. So, are we even looking at the right places when it comes to medal hunting?
Two serious medal prospects for Beijing this August might come from cycling and archery. Currently the cyclists are riding on a golden wave in the Asian Cycling Championships, and the archers have proven themselves worthy by winning the silver medal in an Olympic test event last August. Besides that, the divers might be able to spring a surprise or two. I'm quite hopeful that Malaysia will get at least a medal this time round, but this time not from badminton. Despite coach Rexy Mainaky's efforts, the pairing of Koo Kien Kiat and Tan Boon Heong had a glimmer of an Olympic gold at one point but inconsistency has cost them a lot. No matter how much money the government pumps into the Badminton Association of Malaysia, we are looking at nothing if there's no more fresh talent.
Keep an eye out on our underdogs in the Olympics, expect nothing from the expected, and we might end up with a modest sum of medals in Beijing.