GOLD COAST: A total of 175 athletes (99 men) and 76 women) from Malaysia will compete for honours in 16 sports where the target is to finish in the top-10 bracket in the Gold Coast.
Here are 10 Malaysian athletes to watch at the Commonwealth Games.
1. LEE CHONG WEI (BADMINTON)
The World No 6 aims to etch his name into the Commonwealth Games as the country’s most successful athlete.
With four gold medals already in his bag, the three-time Olympic silver medallist has a chance of surpassing former teammate Koo Kien Keat, who has won five Commonwealth Games titles, if he wins the men’s singles and mixed team competitions.
Shuttlers from India are Chong Wei’s main rivals in the singles while the South Asians are also the top seeds in the mixed team.
It is now or never for Chong Wei who is on his final outing at the games.
2. PANDELELA RINONG (DIVING)
The Sarawakian is the most decorated diver in the country having won medals in the World Championships, Olympics and other major events.
However, her form of late has been topsy-turvy in individual events due to various injuries.
Pandelela won Malaysia’s first-ever Commonwealth Games diving title when she topped the women’s 10m platform individual event at the 2010 New Delhi edition and followed up with a silver in Glasgow four years ago.
At the Gold Coast, she will compete in the platform individual and synchro (with Cheong Jun Hoong).
She and Jun Hoong are the favourites in the platform synchro, but they will need to be at their best as the pairs from Canada, Australia and England are not far behind in terms of standard.
3. CHEONG JUN HOONG (DIVING)
The Ipoh-born hit the headlines last year by winning Malaysia’s first world title when she bagged the platform gold medal in Budapest.
However, Jun Hoong has yet to perform to expectations since her win at the world meet due to nagging back problems.
The diver is known to be flawless in training, but can succumb to pressure in competitions.
Like Pandelela, the 28-year-old will also compete in the platform individual and synchro events in the Gold Coast.
Ironically, Jun Hoong has yet to win a Commonwealth Games medal, but she is likely to make the podium this time.
4. AZIZULHASNI AWANG (TRACK CYCLING)
The Dungun-born’s dream of winning his first Commonwealth Games gold medal depends on whether he will be fit enough as he is still recovering from a viral infection.
Azizulhasni, who won bronze medals in the team sprint (2010) and keirin (2014), will compete in the sprint and keirin events in the Gold Coast.
The cyclist hopes to make amends following failure to retain his world title in the Netherlands last month.
He should not have problem in acclimatising to conditions in the Gold Coast as he has been based in Melbourne for the last 11 years.
However, it will not be easy for Azizulhasni as he will be up against some of the best cyclists in the world from Australia and England.
5. NAURAJ SINGH RANDHAWA (ATHLETICS)
The 26-year-old is said to be Malaysia’s best bet of ending their 16-year medal drought in athletics.
With a personal best of 2.30m, the three-time Sea Games high jump champion could serve a surprise by finishing on the podium or even winning a gold medal if he can equal his national record.
Although he has cleared only 2.24 metres so far this year, Nauraj has been training diligently in Australia since 2017 under coach Alex Stewart in his bid to win a medal at the Carrara Stadium on April 11.
Australia’s Brandon Starc, India's Tejaswin Shankar and Jamal Wilson of Bahamas, who have all cleared 2.28m this year, are expected to challenge for the gold medal.
6. NICOL DAVID (SQUASH)
The eight-time world champion, aiming for a third straight Commonwealth Games gold medal, arrived early on the Gold Coast to get a feel of the courts at the Oxenford Studios where competition will be staged.
As the No 3 seed, the 35-year-old gets a first-round bye when the tournament starts April 5. Unlike the previous two editions, Nicol is not the favourite this time but the five-time British Open winner could just spring a surprise as she is known for her fighting qualities on the court.
She made her Commonwealth Games debut at the age of 15 when Kuala Lumpur hosted the event in 1998.
7. AZROY HAZAL WAFIE IZHAR AHMAD (WEIGHTLIFTING)
Podium programme weightlifter Azroy is Malaysia’s main hope for a gold medal in the sport following the provisional suspension of Hafifi Mansor for testing positive for anabolic steroids.
Azroy will start his campaign on April 5 in the men’s 56kg where he hopes to end Malaysia’s eight-year drought in the event last won by Amirul Hamizan Ibrahim (2010 New Delhi).
The Rompin-born managed a lift of 258kg at last year’s Kuala Lumpur Sea Games.
8. AFIQ AFIFY RIZAN-KHAIRUL ADHA RASOL (PARA-CYCLING)
Blind cyclist Afiq Afify Rizan and pilot Mohd Khairul Adha Rasol will be eager to bounce back in the Gold Coast following their failure to get on the podium in last month's Para Cycling Track World Championships in Rio de Janeiro.
The two-time Asian Para champions were ousted in the semi-finals of the men’s tandem (B) sprint event in Rio with Scotland's Neil Fachie-Matthew Rotherham and Wales' James Ball-Peter Mitchell taking gold and bronze respectively.
Afiq-Khairul, the only Malaysians for para-cycling, will ride in two events — tandem (B) 1km time trial on April 5 and sprint on April 7 at the Anna Meares Velodrome.
Afify-Khairul, however, showed they have what it takes to challenge for a medal by setting a new Asian record in the 1km time trial event in Rio.
The Malaysian combination posted 1:04.192 to place eighth in the 1km time trial, erasing the previous Asian record of 1:04.266 set by Tatsuyuki Oshiro-Yasufumi Ito of Japan at the 2012 Paralympics in London.
9. EMMA FIRYANA SAROJI (LAWN BOWLS)
Emma is one of the best lawn bowlers in the world and her best showing was winning the 2015 World Champion of Champions title.
The 31-year-old hopes to go one better in the Gold Coast after a silver medal feat in the fours events four years ago in Glasgow.
She, who idolises compatriot and two-time singles champion Siti Zalina Ahmad, will participate in the singles and pairs.
Emma is expected to partner Siti Zalina in the pairs.
10. JOHNATHAN WONG GUANJIE (SHOOTING)
It has been memorable for Johnathan in the past two years, having qualified on merit for the 2016 Rio Olympics and also outshooting Olympic champion Hoang Xuan Vinh of Vietnam for gold medals in the 50m pistol (2017 Southeast Asian Championships) and the 10m air pistol (2017 Kuala Lumpur Sea Games).
It will be his second Commonwealth Games outing after Glasgow (2014) where he finished seventh in the air pistol.
The Melaka-born is raring for action in the Gold Coast as it will be his first international competition since the Sea Games.
Johnathan has been using his time in training working on his mental and physical aspects for the event. He believes he can finish on the podium in the pistol events.