National selectors have to make emotional decision on Azeem and Shereen

KUALA LUMPUR: It has come to this, making life so difficult for the Malaysian Athletics Federation (MAF) selection committee.

Who should compete in next month's Paris Olympics? Azeem Fahmi, 20, or Shereen Samson Vallabouy, 26? They can only choose one.

If one of them has qualified on merit, then there's no issue at all. One will go automatically to the Paris Games, and one as wild card.

But both Azeem (100m) and Shereen (400m) failed to book their Paris tickets in their last two attempts at the Malaysian Open and Kazakhstan Open this month after the year-long Olympic qualifying period came to an end.

Now, Malaysia will be offered only one athletics wild card for Paris, and MAF will have to choose between Azeem and Shereen.

Both of them are deserving of an Olympic appearnace as both have great potential. Both are Asian Games bronze medallists and both hold national records.

Little separates them, and to be fair, MAF might as well toss a coin to choose one.

The selection committee, headed by MAF president Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim, has to submit its choice to the Olympics Council of Malaysia by July 8.

In retrospect, it was easier for the MAF when it came to the last Olympics, 2021 in Tokyo. High jumper Lee Hup Wei had then qualified on merit (ranked 23rd out of the top 32). MAF just gave the wild card to sprinter Azreen Nabila Alias.

Last year, both Azeem and Shereen did not qualify for the World Championships in Budapest but Azeem was the one who got a wild card.

MAF Technical Director John Ballard said: "I will provide all the data of Azeem and Shereen and their performances in competitions to the selection committee.

"It will be difficult and emotional for them to make a decision as both Azeem and Shereen are worthy athletes for the Olympics. Both of them have trained hard and tried their level best to qualify on merit for the Olympics."

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