Sunday, November 12, 2006

Malaysia: Riders out to defy the odds

(photo: SULTAN MIZAN: The Terengganu Sultan will be competing in the endurance event a few days before taking office as the country's 13th Yang di-Pertuan Agong on Dec 13)


THE National Sports Council (NSC) have not rated the equestrian team as medal prospects in the Doha Asian Games.

But this will not stop the 16-member squad from aiming to secure medals for the third consecutive Asiad.

The dressage team (silver) and Quzier Ambak (bronze in the individual showjumping) returned with medals from Bangkok in 1998 while the showjumping team cantered to the bronze at the Busan Games in 2002.

In Doha, the charge for honours will be led by Qabil Ambak, one of three members of the squad with two Asian Games medals in their name. The others are his elder brother, Quzier, and Syed Omar Al-Mohdzar.

Qabil is also on a personal mission to do well in Doha to make up for his miserable outing in Busan.

Despite securing a bronze in the showjumping team event, the 2001 National Sportsman of the Year would rather forget his Busan exploits.

His problems started when his mount, Camelias, was denied entry by the South Korean authorities after failing a medical test.

And Qabil was injured while training at the competition venue. He was thrown off and stepped on by his replacement horse, Humphreys.

The injury affected Qabil's medal hopes in the individual events and also forced him to relinquish his duties as the country's flag bearer during the opening ceremony.

"At the last Asian Games, everything went wrong even before I landed in Busan.

"This time, I am more aware of the situations that might occur and will take the necessary precautions," said Qabil from his training base in Belgium.

"I will be competing in four events in Doha ? the dressage and showjumping individual and team events. Having won a silver and a bronze, I have now set my sights on the gold."

He admitted that it would take a herculean effort from the Malaysian riders to make the podium in Qatar.

"With horses, a lot of factors, including the conditions during the day of the competition, will determine our chances to win," he said.

"I hope everything goes well for Malaysia and that the equestrian competition is run in a fair and friendly manner in Doha."

It has not been all smooth sailing for Qabil in his preparations for Doha.

His two favourite horses, Camelias and Opium Metado, died in June and August respectively.

This has forced him to rely on a new mount, Parvina.

"It was hard to lose two of my best partners as I had years of partnership with them," he said.

"I just got Parvina at the beginning of the year and I am working hard to bond with her.

"I am glad that despite the short period of time, my new partnership seems to be going well."

Qabil also admitted that the short acclimatisation period for the horses could turn out to be a problem for Malaysia's chances in the competitions.

There had been plans to send the horses to Doha earlier but the idea was scrapped due to the high maintenance costs involved.

"My horses will leave from Europe on Nov 27 and there is only a week to acclimatise before the competition starts," he said.

"It would be tough as the current climate in Europe is much colder than the Middle East.

"It might affect some horses but I hope they can manage the temperature change well."

Also in the squad is Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin, who will be competing at the Asian Games a few days before taking office as the country's 13th Yang di-Pertuan Agong on Dec 13.

The Terengganu Sultan is one of six Malaysian riders for the endurance events together with Shamsudin Roni, Mohd Izry Razali, Mohd Rino Rani, Norlaily Buniyamin and Rahmat Azman.


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