Sports

Hosts Malaysia target 111 golds to top medal tally

Malaysia are gunning to top the medal table and generate some positive headlines after pulling out all the stops to host the SEA Games, which open in Kuala Lumpur today.

The hosts have finished top of the medal tally only once, the last time they held the biennial competition, and is hoping to match the 111 golds they won on home ground in 2001.

History shows Malaysia's medal bid is well-founded - six of the last 10 SEA Games hosts have topped the table, reflecting the tradition of rewriting the sporting programme to suit local strengths.

Ahead of today's opening ceremony, Malaysia were quickly on the board on Wednesday with the Games' first gold in sepak takraw - a ball-juggling sport played with the feet and a rattan ball.

"Today our mission has been accomplished. But we have 110 gold medals to go," said Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, who will compete for Malaysia in polo.

"Gold will not come rolling to us. We have to go and win the gold."

Malaysia will celebrate 60 years of independence on Aug 31, the day after the closing ceremony.

However, last-minute hitches hint at a level of unpreparedness, with a key venue reportedly not ready this week and large numbers of fans with tickets turned away from Malaysia's opening football match against Brunei.

Thousands of police, plus commandos and Malaysia's specialist anti-terror force, will guard against potential threats, and pre-Games raids rounded up hundreds of illegal migrant workers - most of whom were later released.

Malaysia's main obstacle in their bid to top the medal tally are Thailand, who finished tops at the 2015 SEA Games in Singapore with 95 golds, well ahead of fourth-placed Malaysia's 62. - AFP

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