Getting Malaysians on the mat

KUALA LUMPUR: Judo, despite being a regular Olympic sport, isn't popular in Malaysia.

And judoka Kamini Sri Segaran hopes to make Malaysians take notice of the sport with a rousing performance at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games from July 28-Aug 8.

The 24-year-old Penangite, who won a bronze at the Vietnam Sea Games in May, is set for the biggest stage of her life when she competes in the Commonwealth Games, rated as the next biggest multi-sport event after the Olympics.

Kamini, who aims to finish in the top eight in the women's 57kg, said: "It will be great to reach the quarter-finals. It's my first time on such a big stage, I want to focus on the matches one at a time," said the two-time national champion.

Kamini, who is quietly hoping for a surprise podium finish, said: "Of course it will mean a lot to me to come back with a medal. Never say never," she said.

Kamini said she is inspired by her senior, Nik Norlydiawati Nik Azman who competed in the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

"I still remember vividly the day I saw Lydia competing at the Glasgow Games. At that time I thought to myself how cool would it be for me to go there one day. I guess I will find out real soon.

"It means a lot to me to be selected for the Commonwealth. I've been putting a lot of hard work and time into it along with my team of coaches headed by Nashriq (Nassier) and others in the support service team.

"It is through our combined efforts that I am able to move up to a bigger stage in my judo career.

"Former world champion Christina Deguchi of Canada will be in Birmingham. I'm excited to see her because I look up to her very much.

"I hope to spread the values of judo and inspire more children, especially those who come from middle class families (like Kamini and her coaches) to dare to go after their dreams.

"I think judo can be popular if we have more funds to develop it, but I don't think it's just funding that we lack. We also need proper long term planning and more people to get involved in the management of the sport."

Malaysia will also be represented by Amir Daniel Abdul Majeed in the men's 73kg category.

The 18-year-old, who bagged a bronze at the Hanoi Sea Games, has also been given a quarter-final target.

Judo is making a return to the Commonwealth Games after it was not contested in Gold Coast four years ago.

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