SEA GAMES: Hup Wei, Noraseela, and Robani not going to MyanmarTHERE was no room for sentiment yesterday as the Malaysian Athletics Federation (MAF) stuck to its guns in excluding three former Sea Games gold medallists for this year's edition in Naypyidaw, Myanmar.
Lee Hup Wei, Noraseela Khalid and Robani Hassan failed to make the 39-name shortlist which now awaits the Olympic Council of Malaysia's approval.
MAF stuck to its stand of only selecting 14 athletes who have qualified on merit and in addition to seven ranked in the top three of the Southeast Asian ranking lists.
With an eye on developing athletes for the 2017 Sea Games on home soil, another seven aged below 23 from the National Sports Council's back-up programme were also picked.
However, MAF's claim of performance-based selection sounded hollow when nine more athletes were chosen for the relays in the name of "national interest" despite only the men's 4x400m quartet qualifying on merit.
"We have selected the athletes based on their recent performances and according to the qualification standard," said MAF president Datuk Zainal Abidin Ahmad after chairing a council meeting at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil yesterday.
"We also considered a request by NSC to include a few back-up athletes and we have selected nine.
"We decided to also compete in the relays to show support for the Sea Games organisers and so that our flag will be flying.
"I believe we have a well balanced team of experience and youth.
"I don't know whether we can get the seven gold medals we have targeted but we will try.
"At least it's better than the last Games (five gold). We are looking to rebuild the team for 2015 and 2017 after our standard has gone so far down.
"We have chosen the right athletes to represent the country."
In explaining the decision to exclude 400m hurdler Nooraseela, who finished last in only her second race of the year on Sunday at the Malaysian Open after recovering from injury, Zainal said the selection criteria was clear.
"We established the principle for everyone to follow. We were very clear on this," said Zainal.
"Selection is based on merit and performance. For Noraseela, there is not much time to the Sea Games and we said the Malaysian Open was where the selection would be made."
The same applied to Hup Wei, who injured his back on Sunday with the meet serving as a trial after six high jumpers met the qualification standard.
Nauraj Singh Randhawa and S. Navinraj finished as the top two in the trial to join walkers Lo Choon Sieng and Khairil Harith Harun, pole vaulter Iskandar Alwi, hurdler Rayzam Shah Wan Sofian and hammer throwers Casier Renee Lee and Nur Fazira Jalaludin in qualifying on merit.
S. Kannathasan and Arif Zulhilmi Alet are the automatic choices for the 400m and they are joined by relay runners Schzuan Ahmad Rosely. P. Yuvaraaj, Anchois Aron and Kwong Kar Jun.
The seven who qualified via the regional rankings are middle distance runner Jironi Riduan, shot putter Adi Alifuddin Hussin, hammer thrower Jackie Wong, triple jumpers Hakimi Ismail and Noor Amira Nafiah, sprinter S. Komalam Shally and walker Elena Goh.
National record holders Irfan Shamsuddin (men's discus) and Yap Sean Yee (women's high jump) are among the nine from the back-up programme.
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