Commonwealth Games 2022: Malaysian athletes to watch and support

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By Natalie Khoo

Commonwealth Games 2022: Malaysian athletes to watch and support

[Update: This article was originally written on 11 July, 2022 and has been updated on 28 July, 2022]

The Commonwealth Games makes a return to Birmingham, England for its 22nd edition this summer, four years after an exhilarating event in Gold Coast, Australia. Taking place from 28 July to 8 August 2022, the quadrennial sports event will once again see some of the biggest names across 72 Commonwealth countries competing for a medal, including Malaysia’s own cream of the crop.

The Queen’s Baton Relay arrives in England after completing journey through the Home Nations. (Photo: Commonwealth Sport)

There will be an estimated 5,000 athletes and para-athletes descending on the West Midlands city for the Games, also commonly dubbed “The Friendly Games”, which will feature 20 sports this year. Malaysia will be sending 58 athletes to Birmingham to fight for a spot in the Games, on top of 37 other athletes who have qualified outright based on merit through qualifying championships—participating in a total of 12 sports.

Gold medal target

For a quick recap, Malaysia has competed in 13 editions of the Commonwealth Games, amassing 205 medals including 59 gold, 65 silver and 81 bronze medals thus far. The Malaysian contingent took home the most medals at the 2010 Games in New Delhi, India—bagging 36 medals including 12 gold, 10 silver and 14 bronze. At the previous 2018 Gold Coast Games, Malaysia finished in 12th place with 24 medals, including seven gold, five silver and 12 bronze.

Lee Zii Jia has opted out of the Commonwealth Games to focus on the World Championships in August. (Photo: @leeziijia)

The Olympic Council of Malaysia previously set an early target of seven golds this year, including two in badminton and one each in rhythmic gymnastics, lawn bowls, weightlifting, squash, and powerlifting (para). However, the President of the Badminton Association of Malaysia has since called for the medal targets to be reviewed, following national men’s singles badminton ace Lee Zii Jia’s withdrawal from the multi-sports games to focus on the World Badminton Championships in August.

(Update: On 19 July, Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu announced a new medal target of six golds, which are expected to come from diving, weightlifting, badminton, rhythmic gymnastics, lawn bowling and powerlifting.

Sivasangari is out of the Commonwealth Games after suffering serious injury from a car crash on 26 June. (Photo: @sivasangari_)

In another shocking turn of events, women’s national no. 1 squash player and gold medal prospect S. Sivasangari was ruled out of the Games after being seriously injured in a car crash on 26 June. Although she was discharged from the hospital on 8 July, doctors have given her roughly three months to recover. Sivasangari was supposed to be the flag bearer at the opening ceremony alongside para-powerlifter Bonnie Bunyan Gustin, but has been replaced by compatriot Aifa Azman.

Although Team Malaysia has been served with a double blow mere weeks before the Games commence, it’s arguably more crucial than ever for Malaysians to show our support for the contingent, no matter the outcome. With that, here are the top Malaysian athletes to watch and cheer on at the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

Malaysian athletes to watch

Nur Dhabitah Sabri (diving)


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Fresh from her creditable performance to win her first World Championships medal (bronze) in Budapest, Nur Dhabitah Sabri is one of the favourites to win the gold medal in the Birmingham Games. Prior to that, she has made Malaysians proud by earning two gold medals at the recent SEA Games, and for finishing fourth in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The 22-year-old is set to participate in the women’s 3m springboard synchro event with Wendy Ng Yan Yee, and the 10m platform synchro event with Pandelela Rinong.

Dato’ Pandelela Rinong (diving)


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Diving veteran Dato’ Pandelela Rinong, who shared the bronze medal with Dhabitah in Budapest, will also be in the running for gold when the pair takes on the 10m platform synchro event. She has previously won one gold medal at the 2010 Commonwealth Games, in addition to having two Olympic medals and five World Championship medals under her belt.

Bonnie Bunyau Gustin (para-powerlifting)


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After bagging gold at the Tokyo Paralympics last year, Bonnie Bunyau Gustin has his eyes on the prize at the Commonwealth Games. The 23-year-old powerlifting athlete is on track to achieve the goal, especially after winning the 2022 Asia Oceania Open Para Powerlifting Championships title in South Korea just last month. However, he is currently on the road to recovery from a shoulder injury and is not in his best form. If he succeeds in rewriting his world record of 230kg, he may become the first Malaysian champion in para-sports in the history of the Games.

Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik

Despite Lee Zii Jia’s absence, Malaysia could still potentially bring home medals from our badminton team, as the big guns including Indonesia, China, Japan and South Korea will not be participating in the Games. Men’s double pair Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik are hopefuls for a podium finish, after bagging gold at the 2019 Philippines Sea Games and bronze at the Tokyo Olympics last year. Their main rivals will be India’s Thomas Cup winners Satwiksairaj Rankireddy-Chirag Shetty and England’s Sean Vendy-Ben Lane.

Pearly Tan and M. Thinaah (badminton)

Malaysia’s women’s doubles badminton pair may also pull off a golden Commonwealth Games debut if they keep up their recent results. The world no. 11 duo have been delivering high-profile upsets lately, including two wins over world no. 2 pair Yuki Fukushima-Sayaka Hirota of Japan.

Koi Sie Yan (Rhythmic Gymnastics)


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Following her commendable Commonwealth debut in the Gold Coast, 23-year-old Koi Sie Yan will be stepping up her game to win the golden prize. In the previous edition, she garnered a total of four medals including silver in clubs, ball, and team, and bronze in the ribbon—but none were gold. Having won the individual all-around event at the Hanoi Sea Games in May, all eyes will be on her to deliver again in Birmingham.

Aznil Bidin (weightlifting)

Commonwealth Games 2022: Malaysian athletes to watch and support (фото 4)

Aznil is poised to become the first Malaysian weightlifter to achieve back-to-back victories in the Commonwealth Games, if he manages to come out tops in the men’s 61kg category this time. He managed to triumph in the men’s 62kg four years ago and will be in the running to lift the country’s first gold, alongside fellow weightlifters Aniq Kasdan (55kg) and Erry Hidayat (73kg) who are also favourites for the gold in their categories.

Siti Zalina Ahmad and Emma Firyana Saroji (lawn bowls)


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It will be veteran athlete Siti Zalina Ahmad’s seventh Commonwealth Games this year, and she’s set on bringing home her fourth title in Birmingham. The 43-year-old has previously won the singles gold at the 2002 Manchester and 2006 Melbourne Games, as well as the pairs gold with Emma Firyana Saroji in the Gold Coast. The team will be counting on Siti and Emma to repeat their results in Birmingham.

Catch the Birmingham Commonwealth Games opening ceremony at Alexander Stadium starting at 2.30pm local time (9.30pm Malaysian time). Watch this space for more updates. 

Find more stories on our local athletes here.

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