Malaysia's embarrassing prospect: Fewer than 20 athletes for Paris Games

Fadhli Ishak

KUALA LUMPUR: It remains anybody's guess whether Malaysia will be able to send 20 athletes — the bare minimum expected by the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) — to the Paris Olympics on July 26-Aug 11.

Malaysian swimming suffered a blow after recently learning that universality spots in the sport or wildcards can no longer be awarded to athletes who have competed in two or more Olympic editions.

This will rule out swimmer Phee Jinq En, Malaysia's most outstanding female swimmer over the past decade, as she has already competed at Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020.

Jinq En was the only Malaysian female swimmer who competed at the Doha World Championships, a requirement to receive a wildcard.

Countries whose athletes have not achieved the Olympic qualifying times may enter one male and one female swimmer via wildcards.

The slot for a male swimmer will likely be given to freestyle specialist Khiew Hoe Yean.

However, Malaysia Aquatics secretary-general Andy Low said the national swimmers have not given up hope of achieving the qualifying times.

"I only knew about the new wildcard ruling during the world championships last month. It has been implemented for the Paris Olympics," said Andy.

"No other female swimmer competed for us in Doha, so there is no (female) alternate to secure a wildcard.

"However, our swimmers still have two more competitions to earn a qualifying time, and they will be both held in Malaysia.

"This includes Hoe Yean, who is still working hard to try and achieve the qualifying standards. It will be tough to achieve the times, but we will try our best."

The two swim events are the Malaysia International Age Group (MIAG) on April 25-28 and the Malaysia Open on May 23-26 at the National Aquatics Complex in Bukit Jalil.

So far, 13 Malaysians have qualified for Paris. They are: Bertrand Rhodict Lises (diving), Nur Shazrin Mohd Latif (sailing), Johnathan Wong (shooting), Ariana Nur Dania Zairi (archery), Nur Aisyah Zubir (road cycling) and Lee Zii Jia, Goh Jin Wei, Aaron Chia-Soh Wooi Yik, Chen Tang Jie-Toh Ee Wei and Pearly Tan-M. Thinaah (badminton).

Track cyclists Azizulhasni Awang and Shah Firdaus Sahrom, along with weightlifter Aniq Kasdan, are on track to qualify.

Additionally, Malaysian golfers Gavin Green, Natasha Andrea Oon, and Ashley Lau also stand a chance.

Malaysia are also expected to receive at least one wildcard each in swimming and athletics.

If Malaysia do achieve the 20-athlete mark, it will still be the smallest contingent the country has sent to the Olympics in recent decades.

Previously, 32 athletes represented Malaysia at Tokyo 2020, 32 at Rio 2016, 29 at London 2012, 32 at Beijing 2008, 26 at Athens 2004, 40 at Sydney 2000, 35 at Atlanta 1996, and 26 at Barcelona 1992.

The smallest contingent sent was during Seoul 1988 (nine athletes).

The last time the national contingent came home empty-handed from the Olympics was during Athens 2004.

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