KUALA TERENGGANU: Despite Terengganu ruler Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin pulling out of the Sea Games, Malaysia is poised to bag gold in both equestrian endurance events.
It is learnt that his majesty, a seasoned endurance rider, had to withdraw from the national riding squad owing to his un-well horse.
Nevertheless, the Malaysian team is believed to be strong enough to muster the two golds at stake when the Games’ 80km endurance individual and team events take place at the Terengganu International Endurance Park in Lembah Bidong, Setiu on Aug 20.
The Youth and Sports Ministry announced the final selection of a six-member equestrian endurance team for the Games today.
They are Muhammad Fuad Hashim, Mohd Bulkhari Rozali, Mohd Adhwa Embong, Muhammad Faris Haikal Mohd Hassan, the sole female member, Azizatul Asma Abdullah – all from Terengganu – and Kelantan’s Mohd Yusran Yusuf.
Terengganu Youth, Sports and Human Resources Committee chairman Datuk Rozi Mamat said the fact that five of the endurance team members are from his state demonstrates Terengganu’s strength in equestrian sports.
“Mohd Adhwa and Azizatul are the front-runners to win. And with strong backing from the others, and unless there are problems with their horses, we are very confident of securing the two golds,” said Rozi at the soft launch of the 2017 Sea Games equestrian endurance event at the state mini sports stadium in Gong Badak.
Present were Sultan Mizan, Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin and Terengganu Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Razif Abdul Rahman.
Azizatul and Adhwa said that their horses are doing very well and, coupled with their better familiarisation with the local route, are in a commanding position for success.
“However, anything can happen on race day. The weather plays an integral part, just like the conditions of the horses and ourselves.
“We expect the toughest challenge to come from Thailand,” said Azizatul, adding that the other endurance teams are from Cambodia, Singapore and Brunei.
Adhwa, who finished fourth at this year’s Sultan Mizan endurance Cup in Lembah Bidong, said the team are well prepared, thanks to overseas exposure and competitions.
The Philippines and Indonesia will join the above five countries for the show-jumping and dressage events, which also offer two golds each.
Meanwhile, in his speech at the soft launch, Khairy said that Terengganu is contributing the largest number of athletes – 75 out of 844 members - to the national Games contingent.
He commended Terengganu for also contributing heavily to the national cycling team, including Hong Kong World keirin champion and Olympic medallist Azizulhasni Awang.