SEPANG, July 17 — Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin is placing high hopes on the Malaysian contingent to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to bring home the country’s first gold medal from the world’s biggest multi-sports Games.

“I hope this will be the first time that Malaysia will return with a gold medal and, to those who succeed, Insya Allah we will reward you well,” he said at the Demi Malaysia Champions’ Flag-off here today.

The Prime Minister delivered some words of encouragement and motivation to the badminton, gymnastics, aquatics (swimming and diving) and archery squads at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) here before they left for Tokyo for the July 23-August 8 Olympic Games.

Muhyiddin, in his speech to the 40-member national contingent, said he was confident that those representing the country were the best and would shine at the Games.

“I am confident all of you will fight till the end for our beloved Malaysia (so as) to fly the Jalur Gemilang in the eyes of the world, to raise the nation’s standing on the world stage (and) to prove that Malaysians can be the best in their respective sports. 

“Most importantly, to ensure that the national anthem of Negaraku is played at the competition venues,” he said.

He hoped that under the leadership of chef de mission Datuk Lee Chong Wei, the Tokyo Olympics would see the national contingent produce their best-ever result in the history of the Games.

“What I can see is that the whole contingent of 30 athletes, 21 coaches and 13 officials is not just 30 or 64 people, but it actually reflects the strength of Malaysia’s 32 million population.

“As such, I would like to congratulate all of you for becoming the beacon of hopes,” he said.

Muhyiddin also reminded the national contingent to always pay attention to their health and safety.

“I promise that the government will help as much as possible to ensure its commitment that health and safety issues are paramount and are given priority,” he said.

Moments after delivering his passionate speech, Muhyiddin waved the Jalur Gemilang as a symbolic gesture of the national contingent’s departure to the Olympics.

Also accompanying the athletes are Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Reezal Merican Naina Merican, Japanese Ambassador to Malaysia Hiroshi Oka, National Sports Council director-general Datuk Ahmad Shapawi Ismail, Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) president Tan Sri Mohamad Norza Zakaria and Chong Wei.

A total of 40 people, including 18 athletes, boarded the Malaysia Airlines flight MH9118 (10.50 pm), which is expected to arrive at the Narita International Airport at 7.05 am tomorrow (July 18) local time (8.05 am Malaysian time).

Upon arrival in Tokyo, they will undergo Covid-19 swab tests and be isolated for three days. They will also undergo saliva tests throughout their stay in the Land of the Rising Sun.

At the Tokyo Olympics, Malaysia will be represented by 30 athletes, who will compete in 27 events covering 10 sports, with the main aim of bagging the country’s first gold medal.

The first batch of athletes, comprising four sailors - Khairulnizam Mohd Afendy (men’s laser event), Nur Shazrin Mohd Latif (women’s laser), Nuraisyah Jamil and Juni Karimah Noor Jamali (both women’s International 470) - and three officials left for Tokyo on July 8.

National shooter Nur Suryani Mohamed Taibi, who will compete in the women’s 50m rifle 3-position individual event, left this morning, while the remaining athletes will leave on July 25.

The other athletes who have qualified for the Tokyo Olympics are Khairul Anuar Mohamad, Syaqiera Mashayikh (archery); Lee Hup Wei, Azreen Nabila Alias (athletics), Mohd Azizulhasni Awang, Muhammad Shah Firdaus Sahrom (track cycling); Gavin Green, Kelly Tan (golf); Welson Sim, Phee Jinq En (swimming).

The others include Pandelela Rinong, Cheong Jun Hoong, Leong Mun Yee, Nur Dhabitah Sabri, Ng Yan Yee (diving); Farah Ann Abdul Hadi, Jeremiah Loo Phay Xing (gymnastics); Lee Zii Jia, Soniia Cheah, Aaron Chia, Soh Wooi Yik, Chow Mei Kuan, Lee Meng Yean, Chan Peng Soon and Goh Liu Ying (badminton).

In the 2016 edition in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the 32-strong national contingent brought home four silver medals and a bronze, which also happens to be the country’s best-ever achievement at the Olympics, thus far. — Bernama