National archery head coach Lee Jae-hyung is keeping his fingers crossed that all the plans he has in store for the team will be able to run smoothly leading to the Final Qualification Tournament (FQT) for the Tokyo Olympics.
The 57-year-old wants his fourman recurve squad – Khairul Anuar Mohamad, Haziq Kamaruddin, Nur Akmal Hasrin and Zarif Syahiir Zolkepeli – to regain their competitiveness through several tournaments lined up for them prior to the all-important FQT in Paris from June 18-21.
If all goes well, Khairul and Co are expected to compete in their first tournament in 14 months in the first leg of the Asia Cup in Bangkok, Thailand, from May 2-9.
This was the same tournament they last participated in March last year before the Covid-19 pandemic brought the sporting world to a virtual standstill.
The other two meets the team will be sent for include the second leg of the World Cup in Shanghai, China (May 17-23) and second leg of the Asia Cup in Gwangju, South Korea (June 7-11).
“We’re not going to Guatemala for the first leg of the World Cup (April 19-25). Our plan is to get started in Bangkok, followed by Shanghai and Gwangju,” said the long-serving Jae-hyung, who’s instrumental in turning Malaysia into a force to be reckoned with since he joined in 2001.
“These three tournaments make up a very important part of the team preparations ahead of the FQT in Paris. It has been more than a year since the boys competed on the international stage by the time we head to Bangkok.
“We need them to get back the competition feeling as much as possible in order to ready themselves for the last bid to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.
“But again, we can only plan for now and hope for the best. We’re unable to predict what’s going to happen over the next few months in this evolving pandemic.”
To date, Khairul is the only archer who had made the cut.
The world No. 9 sealed an individual spot after bagging a historic silver at the World Archery Championships in Hertogenbosch, Holland, in July 2019.
However, the National Archery Association of Malaysia’s (NAAM) ultimate target is for the men’s team to earn a fourth successive Olympics appearance.
Malaysia have never failed to be part of the team competition, which is exclusive to just 12 nations, since Beijing 2008.
Khairul and Co failed in their first bid after failing to finish among the top eight nations in the world meet in Holland.
With hosts Japan assured of a spot, there are three more berths left to be won through the FQT.
Malaysia took the same route to the 2016 Rio Olympics when they finished in the top three and qualified alongside France and Indonesia.
Qualifying for the team competition will also ensure a country gets the full representation of three archers in the individual event.