|Karate will kick off on May 18 in Ninh Bình Province, with all participating teams expecting high results. — VNA/VNS Photo Tuấn Anh|
The karate teams are ready to participate in 15 events of the SEA Games 31 competition days, which will be held from May 18-20 in the Ninh Bình Province's Gymnasium.
C. Shahmalarani from Malaysia may be a newcomer to the Games, but she is already thinking of surprising her more illustrious opponents.
She will be aiming for gold in the women's U50kg event after winning a title at the Southeast Asian Karate Federation (SEAKF) Championships in Cambodia last month.
"In my category, even tougher athletes were not at the SEAKF Championships, including a Karate 1-Premier League champion. But I aim for the best and want to show something the other countries won't expect," debutante Shahmalarani said.
However, national karate coach R. Puvaneswaran, who is pleased with his charges' recent performances, has warned against complacency ahead of the Games.
The squad's preparations are looking good after winning five gold, three silver and four bronze medals against their regional counterparts at the SEAKF Championships last month.
"The SEAKF Championships and the SEA Games are different in terms of emotion, competition pressure and judging (standards)," Puvaneswaran said.
"We cannot be satisfied with the SEAKF result and have to continue working hard to improve our skills and tactics."
The Malaysian Karate Federation has set a three-gold target for the Games, lower than the four they achieved at the 2019 Philippines Games.
Karate Sports Pilipinas Federation President Richard Lim said 17 Filipino karatekas would represent the country.
“We intend to duplicate or surpass our performance (in 2019),” Lim said.
The Philippine karate team took home two gold, one silver, and nine bronze medals in the 2019 SEA Gamesin Pasay City.
Joco Vasquez and Ricca Torres will be the country’s best hopes in the individual kata categories.
Naoki Alforte, Laurence Nopre, and Felix Calipusan represent the men’s team kata while Torres, Sara Pangilinan, and Nicole Dantes head the women’s team kata for the Philippines.
“We’ve been training hard since last year, and we all help each other,” said Lim, the world number 22 in her division and a silver medalist in the 2021 Asian Karate Championships.
Vietnamese artists aim to shine
The large Vietnamese contingent of karatekas aims to shine in the Games and is exerting effort with a determination to obtain four gold medals.
They are aiming for the golds in the kata (demonstration) and kumite (combat) categories.
Aside from pure training, coaches have frequently held trial competitions to help athletes assess their capacity and make appropriate adjustments to prepare for the Games.
Head coach Lê Tùng Dương said all 21 artists in the two categories had a strong resolve, adding that the chances for athletes in all countries were equal, and their performance at official competitions will be the most precise.
No 1 hopeful for Vietnam is Hoàng Thị Mỹ Tâm, who will compete in the women's U55kg category. She pocketed three gold medals at the Asian championship in late 2021.
Other faces are former world champion Nguyễn Thị Ngoan, Asian champion Hồ Thị Thu Hiền and last Games bronze medallist Trang Cẩm Lành and Đặng Hồng Sơn.
At the SEA Games 30, held in the Philippines in 2019, Việt Nam won two gold, three silver and six bronze medals, ranking third after Malaysia and Thailand.
The coach of the Indonesian karate national team, Aswar, is wary of the strength of the karateka hosts in the Games medal hunt.
"I think the hosts Việt Nam remain a threat. Besides, we also have to be vigilant of the strength of Malaysia," said Aswar.
He explained that the ranks of Indonesian karate coaches were currently focusing on maximising their athletes' abilities.
"Now, the focus is on maintaining performance. We also hope that the referees on duty at the Games will be neutral and uphold sportsmanship," said the former national karateka. VNS