THOUGH they are no strangers to success, the three athletes representing the country at tomorrow's pencak silat event at the 1st Asian Martial Arts Games in Bangkok know they face an uphill struggle to finish on the podium.
Amirul Ahat, Khuzaiman Ahmad and Pg Khairul Bahri Pg Ali Omar will fly the flag for Brunei at the nine-day tournament and acknowledged they will be up against the best in the region in the Thai capital.
"All the best athletes will be there so I know I have my work cut out for me if I want to reach the final," said Amirul before the team left yesterday.
"I want to perform to the best of my ability and show that Brunei's progress is on par with other countries.
"They will all be tough to beat but for me the countries to watch out for are Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam," added the 22-year-old who won silver in the class A (45-50kg) category of the 1st Asian Beach Games in Bali, Indonesia last year.
Amirul also won bronze during the 2008 Vietnam Open in the class A (45-50kg) category and during the 1st Asean Silat Invitational in Terengganu, Malaysia in July - where he competed in class B (50-55kg)
It is no surprise that Amirul has identified Indonesia and Vietnam as the countries to watch out for.
Winning the first 10 editions of the World Silat Championships, Indonesia's hegemony in the competition was erased by Vietnam in 2002 when they managed to win the event for the first time.
Capturing the title as overall champions again in 2004 and 2007, the Vietnamese have proven that they have taken over the torch from the Indonesians when it comes to the international stage.
Khuzaiman is also vastly experienced in his discipline, winning the class D (60-65kg) bronze medal during the 2008 Vietnam Open in Ho Chi Minh City and the 2008 Singapore Open.
Though he did not specify which countries will be the favourites to finish on the podium in his category (class D), the 20-year-old who won the class G (75-80kg) bronze medal during the 13th World Silat Championship in Pahang, Malaysia two years ago agreed that the competition would be stiff.
"I know it will be tough since I have heard that all the countries will be sending their first team. My aim is to work hard and give it my all to get to the final," added Khuzaiman, who won silver during 2006 BIMP-EAGA Games in Makassar, Indonesia.
Pg Khairul Bahri only has national titles in his trophy cabinet but the 25-year-old said that he is hoping his hard work will pay off and he will finish on the podium.
Guided by Indonesian coach Suhartono, all three athletes are in the Project Gold programme and have trained for more than a year.
Judo, jujitsu, karate, kickboxing, kurash, muay thai, pencak silat, taekwondo, wushu and kungfu are the nine sports which will be contested at the Games.
Flying off next Monday, Mohammad Fadilah Hj Sanif, Mohammad Fidayi Hj Sanif and Hj Eddie Jofriani Hj Johari will round off the Brunei's contingent of six athletes when they represent the country in karate.(JT04)
Courtesy from Brunei Times