Nation must look beyond SEA Games
SUCH was the excitement of the Sea Games that even the English Premier League’s Super Sunday showdowns involving the big four — Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool — were overshadowed.
After a slow start, which I have to admit had me believing that 50 gold would be what the contingent could hope to achieve, the medal rush towards the end of the Games captured the imagination of many.
And the relief of meeting the National Sports Council target of 64 resulted in director general Datuk Zolkples Embong breaking down.
Understandable, I suppose, given the pressure the NSC is under during every major Games. Furthermore, this was Zolkples’ first Sea Games as director general and he had to prove himself.
But, as Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, in praising the contingent, said, as great as the Sea Games proved to be in the end for Malaysia, we should not overly rejoice about the gold medal haul and finishing second behind Thailand.
As good as the 68-gold haul is for the ego of Malaysian sports, we have to realistically analyse what has been achieved.
Malaysia had, after Thailand, the largest contingent with 710 athletes. The reason for the large number is because it was decided that these Games would be the first where Malaysia would return to the ideal of the Sea Games — development.
Many athletes were given the chance to compete to help them develop but as the euphoria dies down, it is time for NSC, the national associations and the Olympic Council of Malaysia to sit down and see how well athletes who went on the development ticket fared.
It is a fact that most gold medals were won by elite athletes as except for badminton, hockey and squash, the other sports sent their best to Thailand.
While it would be wrong to expect athletes who went on development tickets to outshine their elite counterparts, NSC and OCM must get the associations to submit a thorough report on how these athletes fared.
Were personal bests set and did these athletes show that it is worth investing in them?
In the race for quantity, quality must not be forgotten and there is a danger of this happening as the sports fraternity celebrates the success of the Sea Games.
The eight core sports must also come under the microscope as funding-wise, they receive the most and the failure of football to qualify for even the semi-finals is alarming.
Except for the men’s 110m hurdles and the 4x400m, athletics’ other gold medals were won by seasoned athletes while artistic gymnastics only contributed two.
These two sports offer a massive number of gold medals and if both don’t buck up, they could be heading football’s way.
While badminton should be lauded for sending back-up players, the fact that they lost to the likes of Singaporean and Thai shuttlers should worry the BA of Malaysia for what the Sea Games proved is that there may not be life after seniors Lee Chong Wei and the men’s doubles.
The core sports that justified their status are aquatics and bowling while squash and hockey were not even tested but the fact that they sent junior players shows that they are still the best at the Sea Games level.
Hence, it is good that Sports Minister Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said is insistent that the ranking system be introduced next month.
Malaysian sports need it if we are to build on what has been achieved for if we were to settle for just the Sea Games, big showdowns elsewhere will surely overshadow the achievements of local athletes.