Malaysian taekwondo athletes train in Seoul ahead of Asian Qualifiers. BERNAMA PIC

Two-time SEA Games champion Syafiq Zuber will head to his favourite training ground - Seoul, South Korea - as part of his final preparations for the Asian Olympic Qualifiers in Tai'an, China, on 15-16 March, reports The Star.

Taekwondo Malaysia (TM) had originally planned for Syafiq and Sebastian Tan to train in Taiwan, but have changed their plans due to the long festival (Chinese New Year) holidays there next month. The duo will spend three weeks in Seoul from 18 February, where they will be accompanied by local coach Syed Taufik Syed Abdul Hamid. 

Former national coach Kim Hoon-goon, who led Malaysia at the 2017 SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur, will coordinate the programme for the Malaysian representatives, who will train with several university teams during their stay. TM secretary general R. Dhanaraj said the original plan was to also send athletes from the podium programme, Fu Cern and Luqman Hakim Suhaimi, bronze medallists at last year's SEA Games in Cambodia, to Korea. 

However, the National Sports Council (NSC) only approved Syafiq and Sebastian as they will be competing in the Olympic Qualifiers. Cern and Luqman will join Syafiq and Sebastian at the Fujairah Open in the United Arab Emirates (4-6 February) in a bid to improve their ranking. "We have had some success in the SEA Games as Syafiq won gold in 2022 (Hanoi) and 2023 due to the training stints in Korea. We believe that Syafiq and Sebastian will be able to complete their final phase of training there before heading to China for the Olympic qualifiers," said Dhanaraj. 

He added that TM have yet to finalise the Korean candidate as the national coach due to their annual general meeting and elections on 3 February. Two finalists from each category will go through to the Asian qualifiers, where Syafiq will compete in the men's -80kg and Sebastian will compete in the men's -58kg.