SEA Games: Malaysian athletes deliver beyond expectations
WHEN the National Sports Council (NSC) announced a 64-gold medal target for the Malaysian contingent to the 24th SEA Games in Thailand, it seemed to be a tall order.
However, the Malaysian athletes delivered the goods over the past two weeks, registering the nation’s best-ever result outside the country – a haul of 68 gold, 52 silver and 96 bronze medals.
The achievement also surpassed the 67-57-79 haul when the Games were held in Kuala Lumpur in 1989.
Malaysia’s late gold surge also allowed them to pip Vietnam to the second spot in the medals standings. Thailand topped the standings on 183-123-103 and Vietnam had 64-58-82.
The National Sports Council director general, Datuk Zolkples Embong, said: “We were so engrossed in reaching the 64-gold target in the last two days of the competition that we did not realise Malaysia managed to overtake Vietnam in the medals tally. I was thinking that we were only good for third place.
“But Vietnam’s gold count stalled while we went on a late surge. The three gold medals from rhythmic gymnastics on Saturday morning confirmed our second place status and I am happy and proud with everybody’s contribution to the success.”
The last time Malaysia finished second in the standings was in the 1999 Brunei Games. The national contingent emerged as the champions when Kuala Lumpur were the hosts in 2001.
At the last Games in Manila, Malaysia finished fourth on 61-49-65.
Datuk Zolkples added that Malaysia’s gold count would have been higher if events like the women’s squash and the rhythmic gymnastics’ floor exercise were not omitted just before the Games.
The NSC had broken up the performance of the Malaysian athletes into four categories: excellent, break even, failures and no hopers.
The sports which fell in the excellent category are the seven sports that exceeded the gold target set by the NSC – swimming, diving, basketball, snooker and billiards, equestrian, karate and wushu.
The second group are those that equalled the target – athletics, bowling, polo, artistic gymnastics, hockey, squash, triathlon, lawn bowls and taekwondo.
The sports deemed failures are those that failed to live up to the NSC’s expectations – archery, badminton, cycling, rhythmic gymnastics, shooting, silat and sailing.
The fourth group, no hopers, were the ones who were not expected to shine and did not deliver as expected, among them judo, fencing, rugby and golf.
“We will go back and evaluate each sport based on their performances in Thailand,” added Zolkples.
The best individual performer for Malaysia was equestrian’s Qabil Ambak Mahamad Fathil, who won four gold medals in Pattaya. He won in both the team and individual events of the dressage and show jumping competitions.
The best Malaysian team, as announced by Zolkples, were the national women’s basketball team.
The team coached by Tan See Wah won plenty of admirers over the way they outgunned hosts Thailand to win 61-60 in the final.
Of the country’s 68 gold medals, only a handful were won by the athletes in the non-elite training programme, among them triathlete Kimbeley Yap, swimmer Lew Yih Wey and the men’s polo team.
Malaysia’s second place finish can be considered a remarkable feat as our athletes contested in only 264 out of the 475 events in the programme.