'Take it as a challenge Speedy Tigers'

KUALA LUMPUR: The Speedy Tigers should view their expulsion from the Road to Gold (RTG) programme as a challenge to prove themselves in the Paris Olympic qualifiers in January.

The qualifiers will take place in Oman and Spain, with the top three teams in each tournament earning Olympic berths for the Paris Games.

Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) president Datuk Seri Kamal believes the Speedy Tigers were excluded from RTG due to their failure to win the gold medal at the Hangzhou Asian Games in September.

Malaysia failed to reach the semi-finals in Hangzhou and finished sixth overall after a 5-2 loss to Pakistan in the playoff.

"I would like to express my gratitude to the RTG committee and Youth Sports Minister Hannah Yeoh for initially including the national hockey team in the programme (in June). I also respect their decision to remove hockey from the programme after analysing the Asian Games performance," said Subahan today.

"The hockey team were on a promising trajectory leading up to the Hangzhou Games but had an off day and finished sixth instead of winning the title.

"Now, the players must treat it as a challenge and aim to win gold at the Olympic qualifiers to demonstrate their worthiness of reinstatement into the RTG. "The ministry has been very supportive of MHC programmes, and I'd like to thank her for her hands-on involvement."

The players were receiving RM3,000 per month under RTG.

However, they can still rely on the Podium Programme, albeit without the RM3,000 per player.

In Hangzhou, Malaysia lost 4-3 to South Korea and drew 4-4 with China and failed to qualify for the semi-finals from Group A.

The Oman qualifier is from Jan 15-21, while the Valencia qualifier will take place on Jan 13-21.

The seedings and teams for the Olympic qualifiers will be finalised after the conclusion of all continental championships.

Malaysia dropped from 10th to 12th in the world rankings after the Asian Games and are expected to face a tough challenge in either Oman or Valencia.

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