'Covid-19 could end Speedy Tigers' Olympic hopes'

KUALA LUMPUR: The national hockey team may encounter a formidable foe in their pursuit of Olympic qualification — Covid-19.

As the Speedy Tigers gear up for the Olympic qualifier in Oman on Jan 15-21, the team must start implementing measures to protect themselves from Covid-19 as cases in Malaysia are doubling up daily.

According to the Health Ministry, Malaysia has reported a staggering 32,285 active Covid-19 cases as of Dec 24,

Former national player Jiwa Mohan urged A. Arul Selvaraj's team not to take Covid-19 lightly.

"The Olympic qualifier is our last chance to qualify for the Paris Games, and the players need to take extra precautions as the tournament is less than three weeks away."

"I had Covid-19 four weeks ago, and it affected me. It drained out my energy, and I was coughing continuously.

" Even some of my (Jiwa Mohan Academy) players were down with Covid. Some of them did not have symptoms but tested positive," said Jiwa, who represented Malaysia 310 times from 1998 to 2013.

In 2021, the national women's team had to withdraw from the Asian Champions Trophy (ACT) after three players tested positive when they arrived in South Korea.

Subsequently, the Malaysia Hockey Confederation (MHC) withdrew its men's team from the ACT in Dhaka the same year after one player tested positive and the entire team were under quarantine.

In Oman, world No. 12 Malaysia will open their Group A campaign against No. 23 China on Jan 15, followed by matches against fourth-ranked Britain (Jan 16) and No. 16 Pakistan (Jan 18).

World champions Germany are in Group B with Canada, Chile and New Zealand.

Only the top three will qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Touching on Malaysia's Olympic chances, Jiwa said Arul's squad are strong enough to match the top teams in Oman to earn a ticket.

"Based on their experience, the Speedy Tigers are good enough to qualify for the Paris Olympics.

"I believe the players are determined to fight for a spot. However, they must also stay injury-free until the Oman qualifier, or it may disrupt the team's plans.

Jiwa was a member of Malaysia's 2000 Sydney Olympics squad — the last time the national team featured in the Games.

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