A poor luck of the draw - Ak Md Saifful Azri Pg Mohd Iskandar Saifful Bahari went up against world champion Diep Ngoc Vu Minh - denied Brunei a medal at the SEA Games yesterday.
Competing in the men's tanding Class A (45-50 kg) event, the inexperienced Ak Md Saifful Azri - who laced up in only his second international event - went down 5-0 to the Vietnamese in the first round (quarter-finals) of the opening day of the pencak silat tournament.
A win would have seen him progress to the last-four and automatically earn him a bronze medal - at the very least - as a semi-finalist, but the gulf in class proved too much to overcome against the defending champion at the Zayar Thiri Indoor Stadium C.
"The opponent is one of the tournament favourites. He is the reigning world champion and won the same event at the 2011 SEA Games," said national coach Suhartono.
"Ak Md Saifful Azri attacked well and was full of self belief, if not experience.
"But he is new to the sport so this will be good exposure for him," he added.
The Belait-based Ak Md Saifful Azri was awarded a ticket to Naypyidaw after beating a Malaysian opponent in a pre-SEA Games competition in Myanmar leading up to the tournament proper, a win which saw him finish with a joint-bronze as a losing semi-finalist in his first international outing.
The competition resumes today with Siti Shazareena Hanifa (Class C, 5-60 kg) and Farina Afida Pehin Hj Abdul Jalil (Class F, 70-75kg) in action against a Filipina and Thai respectively.
Suhartono knows both the opponents - and Diep - during his time as national coach in Vietnam, his native Indonesia and the Philippines, and he firmly believes Brunei have what it takes to secure a win - and a medal.
"They are all my former athletes," he laughed when asked to comment about Brunei's opponents.
"Siti and Farina are both at the same level as their opponents in terms of skill and technique - it all boils down to bravery.
"I am confident we can win the match, and a medal, and progress to the next round."