NERVOUSNESS is not going to affect the national karatedo team which will be competing in the 25th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Laos since half the team has already flown the flag for the country during the last edition of the biennial tournament.
Six men and two women will be representing the Sultanate at the Dec 9-18 event, and they will each be competing in a kumite event.
Four of those athletes participated in the 24th SEA Games in Korat, Thailand, two years ago, and the most notable inclusion is that of Masdiana Hj Tengah who will compete in the women's under 48kg kumite event.
Winning bronze in the same event in Thailand, it was the only medal the 12-member team had to show for - so all eyes will be on her to perform once again.
Coached by Okhida Simangasing, the team is assisted by Mohd Sofian Abdullah who competed in the men's above 75kg kumite event in Thailand.
Seasoned exponent Hj Eddie Jofriani Hj Johari also remains in the squad and will compete in the men's under 55kg kumite event, and there is no doubt he is hoping to better his quarter-final finish in the same category two years ago.
Competing in the men's under 60kg kumite event then, Mohd Fadilah Sanif has moved up a weight class and will be contesting the men's under 67kg kumite this time around. Unlike in Thailand, he will not compete in the men's kumite open event.
Mohammad Fazil Rewandie Mohd Faizal will be at the Games again, this time registered for the men's under 84kg kumite event - as opposed to the men's under 75kg in Thailand.
Mohd Fadilah's younger brother Mohd Fida'iy (men's 56-60kg kumite), Mainudin Hj Mohamad (men's under 75kg kumite), Mohd Fazil Rewandie Mohd Faizal (men's under 84kg kumite), Mohd Jamil Hj Abd Hamid (men's above 84kg kumite) and Dk Nurleha Pg Abd Rahman (women's below 55kg kumite) round off the list of eight exponents.
But despite the familiarity in faces, Okhida said the team has the odds stacked against them.
"Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam will be the teams to beat because of their experience and exposure to overseas tournaments," said the Indonesian on Wednesday.
Training for the past year, the Brunei team has also been competing in various Asian Karatedo Federation (AKF) events, and Okhida feels they are fully prepared for Laos.
Judging from his voice, there was no doubt the trip to Thailand was one to forget.
"Ten athletes competed during the 2003 edition of the Games in Vietnam and they won one silver and five bronze medals," said the 37-year-old Okhida.
"We returned with three silver medals from the Manila SEA Games in 2005, and we only sent six athletes this time.
But in 2007, we sent 12 athletes and only came back with one bronze," he said with a shrug.
The coach blamed their lack of success on timing.
"Maybe they peaked too soon," said Okhida after a moment's thought.
"They were competing in the Thailand Open and Korea Open just before the last SEA Games and perhaps that affected their focus.
"So now what we have done is worked on their mental strength and focus, and I have told them not to stress themselves about winning medals.
"If they perform well, the medals will follow," the coach added.
In charge of the national team since 2003, the squad to the SEA Games was recently in his hometown of Surabaya for a month of try-outs.
Starting on Oct 24, the trip which lasted until Tuesday also saw the national athletes spar with athletes there.
"The Indonesians are at a high level and when we were there, we focused on improving the athletes' mental strength, courage and emotions," said Okhida.
"The last part is important because in kumite, the technique it is 'to kill but not kill', so you have to learn how to control."
Courtesy from Brunei Times