4:02pm 22/05/2023
Olympic gold? Fat hope with our SEA Games performance
By:Sin Chew Daily

If we can’t overcome our weaknesses, our dream of winning the country’s first ever gold medal in the Olympics will similarly be crushed.

The Malaysian contingent only managed to bring home 34 gold medals in the recently concluded SEA Games in Cambodia, occupying an embarrassing seventh place in the medal tally.

The worst ever performance in the games in the country’s history has been a target of harsh criticism from all quarters.

We were placed sixth in the last games in Hanoi, with 39 gold medals, and there was a “double dip” in both the number of gold medals won and overall ranking in this month’s Cambodian games.

Our second worst performance was when we ranked sixth in the 1982 games in Singapore and 2021 in Hanoi.

Countries that fared much better than us in this year’s event were Vietnam (136 gold), Thailand (108), Indonesia (87), Cambodia (81), the Philippines (58) and Singapore (51).

To Malaysians, the lackluster performance this time is hardly acceptable. Many have since voiced their displeasure after the games, and have talked about “resetting national sports.”

Criticizing the Malaysian athletes’ performance is not because we want to pour cold water on them or negate their effort and contribution towards national sports. We only hope the authorities will look into this issue seriously and take the necessary steps to promote the healthy development of national sports.

Let’s first take a look at the goals we set before the games: 40 gold, 37 silver and 64 bronze for a total of 141 medals. In the end, we managed 34 gold, 45 silver and 96 bronze for a total of 175 medals.

Although we have surpassed our goal for total number of medals won, in sports it is the number of gold medals that really matters, such that even a dozen more silver medals will not make up for a single gold medal lost. And we cannot deny that the national squad has suffered a humiliating setback in the latest games. Bitter as it is, we still have to swallow this cruel reality.

Sports minister Hannah Yeoh blamed the country’s poor showing on political turmoil, and understandably her remark put her at the center of the opposition’s onslaught, accusing her of evading her responsibility.

To be fair, it is not logical to associate the country’s poor performance in SEA Games with politics, but problems arising from political turmoil, including the short tenure of the sports minister, lack of long-term planning, etc. do impact the country’s sports development. But of course, this is by no means the only factor.

The authorities have the responsibility of drawing up effective long-term plans and overhauling existing management culture in order to create a more conducive space for the growth of our athletes.

This means that various sporting bodies will need to be attuned towards professionalized management and not to be led by layman politicians.

Underfunding is another major issue. Compared to other ministries, allocation for the youth and sports ministry is truly pathetic. We used to read about athletes’ allowances being slashed because of inadequate government allocation.

This is a very realistic question: sports development does require substantial financial input.

Many plans have to be shelved because of underfunding. As such, the government should provide adequate allocation for the youth and sports ministry in order to promote sports development.

Bear in mind that sports development is not wholly about winning more gold medals to do the country proud in international arena. More importantly, it will also encourage Malaysians to be physically and mentally fitter.

Meanwhile, our national athletes must also do their part by training positively and nurturing the attitude of self discipline.

While we do have some world-class athletes, they nevertheless lack the perseverance and fighting spirit in order to excel.

Now that the curtain has fallen on the Cambodia SEA Games, our deficiencies have also been exposed.

If we can’t overcome our weaknesses, our dream of winning the country’s first ever gold medal in the Olympics will similarly be crushed.

The pressing task now is to rectify all the irregularities in sports management.

Sports development requires long-term investment and comprehensive planning, and there is absolutely no short cut to success!


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