Kuala Lumpur: National para athletics chief coach R. Jaganathan (pic) is optimistic that his charges will bring back at least three medals from the Tokyo Paralympics which will be held from Aug 24 to Sept 5.
After leading his charges to win three gold medals at the Rio Paralympics in 2016, the country’s best ever outing in the games, the coach with almost 40-years of experience is now charting the fortunes of his team for Tokyo amid the global Covid-19 pandemic.
Jaganathan is confident that men’s T20 (learning disability) long jumper Abdul Latif Romly and Muhammad Ziyad Zolkefli in the men’s shot put F20 (intellectual disability) are on the right track to return with medals, regardless of colour, after their recent performances to win against able-bodied athletes at the Malaysian Athletics Grand Prix, recently.
But for the country’s first Paralympics gold medallist Mohamad Ridzuan Mohamad Puzi, who triumphed in the men’s 100m T36 (cerebral palsy category) dash at Rio, age is catching up with the 33-year-old.
“Age is catching up for Ridzuan, but we will try our best and hope he gets a medal. We can also fall back on Sabahan Jonathan Wong Kar Gee (T12 long jump – vision impairment) as another potential medallist,” he said.
Sabah’s Jonathan Wong Kar Gee is seen as a potential medallist at the Tokyo Paralympics.
At the Rio Games, Mohamad Ridzuan, Muhammad Ziyad and Abdul Latif gave Malaysia its gold glitter in the Games, while Siti Noor Radiah Ismail won bronze in the women’s long jump T20 (intellectual disability).
Jaganathan, who coached M. Ramachandran – the former middle distance king and national record holder in the 5,000m and 10,000m races for over two decades – before taking up the para job in 2001, said Muhammad Ziyad might be leaving to Germany for three weeks after Ramadan to improve on his throw.
As for Ramadan month training, he said the coaches have to lower down the intensity to avoid pushing the fasting athletes, as well as reschedule training to 9pm.
“The focus will be more on technical aspects and skills to maintain their momentum and resume the old intensity after the fasting month. We will have around eight to 10 weeks to prepare before heading to Tokyo,” he added,
Meanwhile, Paralympic Council of Malaysia (PCM) Secretary-General First Admiral (Rtd) Datuk R. Subramaniam said with nine athletes having confirmed their berths to Tokyo so far, the council is expecting to send a contingent of around 25 athletes with additional slots coming from upcoming qualifiers and bipartite entries (quota places and based on availability).
“The pandemic has disrupted our plans for training programmes, familiarisation and periodisation, including five overseas trainings and competitions for them, but everyone is facing the same issue. We probably can confirm the numbers and target around end of June,” he said.