Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Lawn Bowls: Malaysia eye Delhi gold rush

IT is rare for any Malaysian sport to set the sky as the limit of their ambition, so the Malaysian Lawn Bowls Federation (MLBF) ought to be lauded for its boldness. MLBF has set a four-gold target for its 12 bowlers in New Delhi, a feat never before achieved in the history of the Commonwealth Games.

Malaysia's best haul was the two gold medals won by Siti Zalina Ahmad in the women's singles and the women's triples at the last Games in Melbourne four years ago.

The lawn bowlers have consistently produced results on the international stage and Malaysia have in the last decade become one of the sport's leading nations alongside Australia, New Zealand, Scotland and England.
Safuan Said, the world champion, is the leading men's lawn bowler in the world while Siti Zalina is a two-time defending champion at the Commonwealth Games.

The return of Nor Iryani Azmi, the Champion of Champions singles winner in 2006, to the national team after a three-year absence has also boosted the lawn bowlers' chances of winning gold medals.

Nor Iryani, who was part of the triples winning team in 2006, will play in the pairs with Nor Hashimah Ismail but most eyes will be on Safuan and Siti Zalina.

If MLBF's target is to be achieved, the duo must come through in their respective events with the men's and women's triples and the men's pairs also having to share the burden.

Team manager Jamal Nasir Abu Bakar believes four gold medals is certainly within Malaysia's reach and even boldly declared that a clean-sweep of all six events is possible.

"With the training and overseas competitions that the bowlers have been exposed to, we have set four gold medals as a reasonable target.

"We believe that the gold medals can come from any six of the events. In fact, we could win them all but have decided instead to stick with a more conservative number. My own personal target is for them to come home with five gold medals," said Jamal Nasir at a recent press conference in Bukit Jalil.

Chief coach Ariffin Abdul Ghani concurred with Jamal Nasir, saying that this is perhaps the country's best-prepared lawn bowls squad.

"The bowlers have made steady progress over the last four years, winning several international honours. At the World Championships in 2008, we won one gold (through Safuan) and four bronze medals.

"This is the major reason why we are confident in the target we have set," said Ariffin.

The squad suffered a minor scare last week when Siti Zalina suffered a back strain in a test match against New Zealand in Paroi.

But the 2002 and 2006 Commonwealth Games gold medallist was declared fit just before the team departed for New Delhi on Friday.

Read more: NST/

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