PENANG have always been a karate powerhouse whether at the national junior or senior level, but at the 19th Sukma to be hosted by Perak from Sept 12 to 22, they have only modest hopes because of a relatively new squad.
Coach Lim Lee Lee said out of the four men and three women representing Penang at 2018 Sukma, they have quite a number of new members.
At the last Sukma held two years ago in Sarawak, Penang dominated the show by sweeping all four gold medals in karate kata (non-combat).
The Penang Sukma squad (from left) Cherlene, Ariana, Sin Yi, Lee Lee, Jin Keat, Ivan, Ernie, San Hong and Kojiro strike a pose after a training session.
“Some of our athletes like 2016 women’s individual gold medallist Khaw Yee Voon are already overaged. We’ve four newcomers and we’re not placing very high hopes on them although we still harbour hopes of winning gold medals,” Lee Lee said during a training session at the training centre at Transfer Road in George Town.
Penang’s best hope is on Ivan Oh Thean Wei, who won the men’s individual kata gold and team gold with Ooi San Hong and Howart Tan Jia Jie at 2016 Sukma.
Now studying Social Science at USM, Ivan will focus only on the men’s individual kata this time. San Hong, a Sixth Former at St Xaviers’ Institution, will take part in the team together with Ernie Tye Chun Chuen and Yong Kojiro (both Chung Ling Private). The trio, who are ranked World Junior (Under-21) No. 3, are also gold medal prospects.
“I’m excited to defend my title. I want to make Penang proud,” said Ivan, who emerged champion in the 2015 Southeast Asia Karate Championships in Laos and was a member of the national winning team in the Karate 1 Premier League in Dubai, Qatar, in 2016.
The Penang karate kata exponents in a training session.
Yee Voon, who won both the women’s individual and team golds in 2016, is overage for the Under-21 tournament but two of her teammates – Ariana Lim Junyi (Penang Chinese Girls High School) and Chang Sin Yi (USM) – are still available for this year’s Sukma. The duo will defend the title with newcomer Cherlene Cheung Xue Lin (Penang Chinese Girls High School).
Ariana, currently ranked World Junior No. 2, looks to be in good form as she took the gold in the National Under-21 tournament in June. Apart from the team event, she will take part in the individual kata.
“I would like to emulate Yee Voon’s feat. I know my teammates and myself will do our best,” said the PCGHS Upper Six student.
Hard work and discipline are the prerequisites for success and that show in the exponents’ daily training under coaches Ku Jin Keat and Lee Lee. The husband and wife team, who also coach the national team, tolerates no nonsense during training as they want them to master certain techniques.
Both had competed at the highest level and won numerous medals with Jin Keat claiming Malaysia’s first gold in the kata event of the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhao, China, and Lee Lee, a former SEA Games champion, missing the bronze medal by a mere point in the 20th World Karate Championship in Serbia in 2010.
To make up for her disappointment for missing a medal in the world meet, Lee Lee has guided three of her charges to win bronze medals through Lim Chee Wei in the 2011 World Karate Junior Championship (individual kata), Hoe Thomson in the 2014 World Karate Championship in Bremen, Germany (team event), and San Hong, Ernie Tye and Yong Kojiro in the 2017 World Junior Karate Championships in Tenerife, Spain (team event).
Celine (left) and Chee Wei show they are ready for the Asian Games challenge.
“We’re imparting our knowledge and skills learnt over the years, so that they gain by not making many of the mistakes we made before. I see them so much better than myself when I was their age. I consider this a success in my coaching,” Lee Lee said.
“We complement each other. I may be strong in certain sets of kata whereas Jin Keat may be strong in others. This will benefit the trainees.
“Performing kata looks easy to the eyes, but it’s actually very difficult. This sport is good for young children to develop their motor skills. For athletes who want to excel, they must have a lot of determination and discipline to practise a technique over and over again.
“They have to polish their technique until perfect. This can be boring and we, as coaches, have to make the training interesting for them. Like the athletes, coaches also must have an objective or a target.”
Also joining the Sukma exponents in training yesterday were national kata exponents, Celine Lee Xin Yi and Lim Chee Wei, who were put through the paces by Jin Keat as they wrapped up their preparation for the ongoing Asian Games being hosted by Jakarta.
The two exponents together with coach Lee Lee would be flying from Kuala Lumpur to Jakarta tomorrow for the kata events that would be held on Aug 25-27.
The 2018 Penang Sukma squad: Men’s Individual – Ivan Oh Theng Wei, Men’s Team – Ooi San Hong, Ernie Tye Chun Chuen, Yong Kojiro; Women Individual – Ariana Lim Junyi, Women’s Team – Ariana Lim Junyi, Chang Sin Yi, Cherlene Cheung Xue Lin.
Story by K.H. Ong
Photos by Nur Afiqah Zainudi