The Sarawak team pose for a group photograph together with chief coach Yousef (standing 5th from left), national coach Ali Reza (standing 5th right), and the two assistant coaches.

KUCHING: A young squad of three girls won two bronze medals in the Makaf National Senior Open Karate Championships held in Kuala Lumpur recently to give head coach Yousef Ataei Khanghah new hopes in the sport.

Nur Syahzanani poses with her certificate and medal.

It was the first assignment under his charge and the performance raised his confidence as he was impressed with the athletes’ strong fighting spirit. Yousef predicted three medals before they went to the tournament. However, one Sarawak contestant Vincent Garfelo ak Disen had  to be withdrawn in the second round after he was injured when punched in the mouth by his opponent.

The Sarawak girls got the medals when Nur Syahzanani Izzati Bte Yahya clinched the Female Individual Kumite (Sparring) above 68 Kg bronze.

She then teamed up with two other girls, Syaza Bte Darmanto and Elnieshernie Endun Anak Leo to win second bronze in the Female Team Kumite event.

“The five-strong squad did very well to win the medals at the high level competition considering most of their opponents were either national players or veterans in the sport while most of our athletes are young and inexperienced at that level,” said Yousef.

“There were so much quality in the other teams but our athletes — with only 45 days of training — managed to win two medals, which was a great achievement,” he added.

“Our coach is impressed with the fighting spirit of the Sarawak athletes despite their lack of exposure, their main setback at the high level competition.

“Our athletes fought without fear and managed to do well due to Yousef astute coaching as he is well versed with the tactical and techniques and he also knew the athletes,” said a karate team official.

The official added that Sarawak athletes need more competitions which provide the best avenue to gain experience.