Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Armed with faith

THE national shooting team have grown stronger since their failure to land a gold medal in last year's Laos Sea Games with several shooters making their mark in international competitions of late. The ever-determined shooters now hope to make an impression on the New Delhi Commonwealth Games and are determined to crack the dominance of the Australian and Indian shooters and win any of the 36 gold medals on offer at the Dr K.S. Shooting Range.

A total of 22 shooters (14 men and eight women), will be competing in New Delhi.

Their priority is to win Malaysia's first gold medal since Nurul Hudda Baharin's feat in the 10-metre air rifle at the 1998 Kuala Lumpur edition.

Nur Suryani Mohd Taibi stands as the country's best bet of ending the drought.

In March, Nur Suryani earned a huge boost for herself and for the sport in the country when she won a historic silver medal (10m air rifle) at the ISSF World Cup Series in Sydney.

Nur Suryani, who is with the Armed Forces, however, is known to be erratic but if she hits form in New Delhi, a gold medal is a distinct possibility.

Her best achievement in the Commonwealth Games was a bronze medal in the 50m three-position pairs with Nurul Hudda in the 2006 Melbourne edition.

Teammate Nur Ayuni Farhana Abdul Halim, an emerging force in local rifle competitions, is also a shooter to watch at the Games.

The 19-year-old made a remarkable international debut last year by bagging a gold medal in the 10m air rifle event at the International Junior Shooting Championships in Germany.

The Pahang shooter, who also represented the country in last year's Sea Games, has also been winning local titles consistently and she should be in the right frame of mind in New Delhi.

Shahera Rahim Raja, Muslifah Zulkifli and Haslisa Hameed are the other shooters in the women's rifle team.

Meanwhile, pistol shooters Hasli Izwan Amir Hasan and Bibiana Ng, who both made their Commonwealth debut in the 1998 edition, are also on course for a medal in their respective events.

Hasli, after two unsuccessful outings, returned with a bronze medal in the 25m rapid fire from the Melbourne edition and he hopes to add to that in New Delhi.

His dominance in the event, however, is now challenged by his protege, Hafiz Adzha, who beat him in the recent National Championships.

Hafiz, who posted a 585 total to surpass Hasli's record by three points at the competition, will definitely fancy his chances against the best at the Games.

As for Bibiana, the Commonwealth Games gold medal has been eluding her despite the pistol shooter winning a medal in each outing since her debut in Kuala Lumpur.

In her initial appearance, the 33-year-old took silver in the 25m sport pistol and followed up with another second place finish with Irina Maharani in the pistol pairs event four years later in Manchester.

In the last edition in Melbourne, the Sarawak-born Bibiana, together with Joseline Cheah, took silver in the 10m air pistol pairs.

The experienced shooter hopes to end her gold medal drought in her fourth Commonwealth Games in New Delhi on Oct 3-14.

National Shooting Association of Malaysia executive secretary Major Jasni Shaari is confident his shooters will return with two or three medals.

"I believe everyone in the team has a chance of a good performance if they perform to expectations," said Jasni.

"The gap between our shooters and the rest has narrowed compared to before, and I expect a better haul this time.

"Our shooters have the confidence and self belief after competing in several international events.

"I believe they will be able to hold their nerves during their respective events in New Delhi."

Jasni said the medals would likely come from the rifle and pistol shooters.

"Nur Suryani, Nur Ayuni (rifle), Bibiana, Joseline and Siti Nur Masitah Badrin (pistol) are our potential medallists in New Delhi," he said.

In 2006 in Melbourne, Malaysia returned with one silver and four bronze medals.

Read more: NST

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