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Galloping Into History

Strong ride: Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin in action during the Malaysian Open Polo Championship at the Royal Selangor Polo Club in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday. — Bernama

KUALA LUMPUR: Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin has galloped into unchartered territory.

Khairy will be the first minister from the region to take part as an athlete at the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games from Aug 18-30.

The Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) confirmed that the minister, who will take part in polo, as one of the 871 Malaysian athletes at the biennial Games.

Malaysia won the gold when the sport was last played at the 2007 SEA Games in Korat, Thailand.

Khairy, however, is not the only dignitary in the list. The Sultan of Terengganu, Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin will be taking part in equestrian (endurance).

OCM president Tunku Tan Sri Imran Tuanku Ja’afar said: “Any Malaysian can be good enough to represent the country at the SEA Games and that includes our Youth and Sports Minister.

“He is available. He has taken time to train and he has come through a selection process. OCM ensured that the selection process was done properly. He was given a fair chance.”

Tunku Imran said that a total of 4,888 athletes from 11 countries would take part in Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia would take part in 397 events out of the 405 contested in 38 sports.

“It’s not the biggest ever. When the Philippines hosted it in 2005, they had a total of 5,339 entries. But for Malaysia, 871 is our largest representation,” said Tunku Imran.

“Some associations have taken the gamble by fielding younger athletes – and that’s admirable.”

He, however, said that Malaysia had to drop the women’s steeplechase because lack of participation.

Malaysia will also not be represented in swimming’s women’s 200m butterfly; athletic’s men and women’s 10,000m; women’s marathon; and men and women’s squash jumbo events.”

When asked why there are a shortage of long distance runners – especially in the men’s 10,000m, which was once dominated by M. Ramachandran, Tunku Imran said: “This you have to ask the MAF (Malaysian Athletics Federation).”

Meanwhile, chef-de-mission Datuk Marina Chin said it was heartening to have young athletes, seasoned campaigners, a minister and a Sultan in the Malaysian contingent.

“It’s my hope to give every single one of them my fair attention. I’ve visited the athletes at different venues and I’m pleased with their commitment and spirit in training,” she added.

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