KUALA LUMPUR: A big team with big hopes started its exodus into this bustling Malaysian capital, looking to pull off a miraculous performance to regain its lofty status in the region’s biggest and most prestigious athletic conclave – the Southeast Asian Games.
A group of windsurfers quietly arrived early week to test its new equipment and acclimatize before members of the national netball, sepak takraw and football squads landed last Friday, three days before starting the country’s gold-medal rush in the 29th edition of this biennial athletic conclave.
The national men’s U23 football squad will be facing Cambodia at the Selayang Stadium while the women’s squad will clash with the home team at the UiTM Shah Alah Stadium to formally mark its return to the regional stage after skipping the tourney in 2015.
The national netball squad will also plunge into action against Thailand on Tuesday in quest for its first-ever victory after a winless performance in the Singapore edition two years ago.
The sepak takraw team, meanwhile, will see action on Wednesday where the tournament’s first two gold medals – on top of two more mints from archery – will be disputed.
The national archery team is set to leave Manila on Monday.
PSC executive director and SEA Games task force chief Atty. Carlo Abarquez said athletes from muay thai, squash, swimming, volleyball, basketball, judo, tennis and triathlon comprise the main bulk of the biggest contingent that would touch down here on Saturday, just in time for the opening ceremonies of what promises to be the most glamorous hosting of the Games since the Malaysians last had their turn in 2001.
“The main bulk of the Team Philippines will be arriving in Kuala Lumpur on the 19th,” said Abarquez, adding that Olympian Eric Shawn Cray and other stars will no longer pass by Manila and would be coming to Malaysia straight from their respective training destinations.
Cray, who is set to defend his title in the men’s 100-meter run and 400-men hurdles, will be flying from London after competing in the IAAF World Athletics Championship.
Also flying straight to Malaysia are the Richardson twins, Kyla Ashly and Kayla Anise, who is set to dominate in the women’s 100-meter and 200-meter runs as well as 4×100-meter and 4×400-meter relays.