Friday, June 24, 2016

Legacy or chaos?




 


Commentary

It may sound like a noble idea and a legacy to be left behind but organising the 29th Sea Games and the 9th Asean Para Games jointly next year can only mean chaos.
Already, last year’s Sea Games host, Singapore, is a tough act to follow; it is said to have organised the best Games ever. So, doing two Games together would be putting too much on our plate and inviting unnecessary pressure.
The newly elected board of the Paralympic Council of Malaysia (PCM), headed by president S.M. Nasarudin, has proposed to the Olympic Council of Malaysia, and gained the support of Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, to hold a joint Games and call it the inaugural Asean Games or “1 Asean Games”.
Bringing a joint Games to fruition would be no mean feat. Yes, if successful, it will be a legacy for the prime movers as they would be the first to do it. But it is going to be a nightmare in terms of logistics and resources.
It is learnt that the prime minister has been convinced that organising both the Games will reduce organisational costs, especially since there will be only one opening ceremony and one closing ceremony for both the Games. He has given the idea the nod.
Traditionally, the Para Games is held after the Sea Games. And it is the same for the Asian and Olympics Games.
But it is the Commonwealth Games that PCM is trying to emulate where both the Games are held jointly.
However, for the Commonwealth Games, there are only 10 core sports on the programme and an additional seven from a list of optional sports/disciplines while for the Para Games, there are four core sports that must be included, and then an additional three listed as optional Para-Sports. But the events must not exceed 20, which must be fully integrated into the overall sports programme.
Thus, the overall number of sports is small at the Commonwealth Games and minimal at the Para Games, and thus manageable.
While PCM have claimed they have the full support of the Asean Paralympic Council for a joint Games, it is learnt that it was not a unanimous decision and several officials on the PCM board do not see the idea as feasible.
For starters, the Philippines, the next host of the Sea Games in 2019, have come out openly to say that they do not have the means to organise a joint Games and will host the Games separately.
So, does this mean the joint Games will just be for the Kuala Lumpur Games?
But before that can happen, the Sea Games Federation (SGF), who are meeting next month in Kuala Lumpur, have to endorse PCM’s proposal, which has to be supported by OCM.
For starters, OCM are still waiting for a detailed proposal on how the joint Games can be organised with all the logistics and resource details to be studied before presenting at the SGF meeting.
OCM have been given preliminary brief by PCM saying that except for athletics and swimming, all other events can he held at the same venue for both Games.
Among the issues that need to be addressed are:
* Whether the duration of the Games will have to be extended because of the number of events. For instance, for athletics and swimming, Sea Games will see 46 and 38 respectively while for the Para Games, it will be a total of 95 events for athletics (because of the items for a single event under various categories, that is for the 100m there will be 21 events!) and 91 for swimming.
A total of 16 sports have been proposed for the Para Games with a total of 240 events for men and 120 for women for a total of 1,215 medals as opposed to the Sea Games’ current selected 34 sports – comprising 342 events – but this could well increase to 40 or more sports when the SGF meet next month to decide on the final number of Games after appeals made after the last meeting in February.
Currently, the Sea Games is scheduled to be held from Aug 19 to 31 with the closing ceremony coinciding with Malaysia’s 60th Merdeka celebrations.
·        Logistics issues of transport, accommodation, venues and distances.
·        Resources – whether we have enough officials for both Games as many officials officiate in both Games.
·        Expenses – whether it will actually be cheaper or could be the same to organise two Games separately.
·        Media – with all the media attention on the Sea Gams, will the Para Games get enough publicity? Will the media have enough resources to cover both Games held simultaneously? 
·        Spectators – whether we will have spectators at the Para Games as the majority would prefer to watch events at the Sea Games.
This is the sixth time the Sea Games will be held in Malaysia (after 1965, 1971, 1977, 1989 and 2001), which sees the biennial Games being hosted after 16 years. Naturally, Malaysia want to make it a memorable affair.
It will definitely be a challenge to handle about 7,000 Sea Games athletes and officials and even more challenging to handle and cater for 3,000 para athletes.
We seriously have to ask ourselves whether it is manageable or are we courting trouble?
We have to decide, once and for all, whether we want to have a great Sea Games separately or a joint affair and head for a fiasco.

TONY is a sports
journalist with more than
three decades of experience
and is passionate about
local sports.
He can be reached at
tmariadass@gmail.com
Twitter: @tmariadass​





Friday, June 17, 2016

Let's change mindsets











Commentary

To be or not to be?

The decision to let our young athletes compete in the IAAF World U20 championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland, from July 19 to 24, before they return to compete in the Malaysia Games (Sukma) in Kuching from July 26 to 29, is highly commendable.
Earlier suggestions to not participate in the world junior championship because of Sukma were put to rest after National Sports Council (NSC) director-general Datuk Ahmad Shapawi Ismail met the athletes and coaches concerned, including MAU coaching chairman Zainal Abas and sprinters coach Mohd Poad Md Kassim, officials of the state sports councils and others, to get their views on the matter. 
A final meeting on Tuesday afternoon between NSC and the Malaysian Athletics Federation (MAF) sealed the decision that the athletes should compete in both the world junior championship and Sukma.
Among the athletes who have qualified on merit for the world championship are the winners of the Asian Junior championship in Ho Chi Minh earlier this month, namely Khairul Hafiz Jantan (100m), R. Kirthana (triple jump) and Mohd Rizzua Haizad (triple jump).
Meanwhile, sprinter Badrul Hisyam Abdul Manap booked his ticket after clocking 10.53s at the 2015 UniMAP Open Athletics Championships, surpassing the 10.55s qualifying mark set by IAAF. 
Khairul, 17, after clocking a personal best of 10.30s in the earlier rounds in Vietnam, won the final in 10.36s, upsetting Japan's Ippei Takeda (10.41s) and Saudi Arabia's Abdullah Abkar Mohammed (10.45s). The latter had arrived in Vietnam as the year's quickest U20 sprinter in the world, having clocked 10.04s. Malaysia's Badrul Hisyam, whose best record is 10.34s, came in fifth with 10.54s.
Khairul’s achievement gave the country its first Asian Junior gold medal in the men's category in the 30-year history of the U20 event. The contingent’s three golds, three silvers and a bronze, to finish fourth among 18 countries, have given Malaysian athletics much hope for a brighter future.
Khairul also bagged a silver in the 200m with 21.15s and was a member of the 4x100m quartet, who took silver with 39.91s. The other members of the relay team were Badrul Hisyam, Asnawi Hashim and Muhd Haiqal Hanafi.
That we even thought of skipping the world junior championship for a national junior event is unforgivable and only underlines the short-sightedness of some athletes and officials.
Though common sense prevailed in the end, the issue should not have come up in the first place, especially since the governing body and stakeholders like the Ministry of Youth and Sports have clear policies on such things.
The complications arose because the states put their interests before the nation's.
Badrul and Khairul, who are from the Tunku Mahkota Ismail Sports School, represent Malacca while Kirtana and Rizau of the Bukit Jalil Sports School, represent Perak and Sarawak respectively.
These athletes probably found themselves in a dilemma because apart from their sense of loyalty to their home-state, it is learnt that they have been paid a Sukma monthly allowance for almost a year now.
The lure of cash incentives for winning gold medals at Sukma and other perks must have blinded these young athletes as well.
The fact that Khairul told the media that he was skipping the world youth championship because of Sukma, points to poor management of the athlete and sounds like someone put him up to it. Khairul must surely have known Zainal's views that both he and Badrul forget about Sukma and focus on the world junior championship?
And his reason that he wanted to set a new national record in front of Malaysian fans and his parents does not hold water. What better competition, field and status to set a new national record than a world championship?
Such actions do not speak well of Khairul’s character but then he is young and needs to be guided by his coaches and administrators.
We certainly do not need prima donnas when they are just blooming.
Pictures of the athletes holding branded spikes to their face when posing for the media after victory only goes to show the hold that sponsorship and money already has on them.
It is all right to secure sponsorships but these athletes must not become blinded by monetary rewards and lose track of their ultimate goal -- to excel in their sport and reach the highest level of competition possible.
We have seen many budding athletes fall by the wayside because of greed, wanting to be in the spotlight and poor guidance.
This current controversy would not have arisen if everything had been laid down clearly from the start and the athletes had been told to follow the guidelines strictly.
We have a good crop of young athletes, which augurs well for the future of athletics. But petty issues and unnecessary publicity threaten to muddy the waters.
Hopefully, none of the said athletes complain that they are tired and suffering from jet-lag at the thought of having to compete in back-to-back competitions. It would be a small sacrifice but a huge leap forward in their athletic career.
Besides, they will probably benefit from having trained in Europe prior to the world junior meet, and with a sports science team with them, it could well be the launchpad for them to reach for the stars.
Let us think big, make the right, not popular, decisions and aim to be a world class sporting nation. Otherwise, we are destined to be just jaguh kampung.

TONY is a sports
journalist with more than
three decades of experience
and is passionate about
local sports.
He can be reached at
tmariadass@gmail.com
Twitter: @tmariadass​

Friday, June 10, 2016

Treat young athletes with dignity, please













Commentary

It is embarrassing that the cream of our young athletes had to compete with minimum sports attire and equipment at the 17th Asian Junior athletics championship that ended in Ho Chi Minh City on Monday.
That the contingent of 24 athletes, five coaches and one team manager had to travel without an official bag, tracksuit and jogging shoes is indeed sad.
Indeed, the Malaysian athletes wore their own outfits at the prize presentation for the winners.
They had been given just one running vest with the word “Malaysia" printed on the back and a pair of shorts and two round-neck T-shirts without any wordings for the duration of the trip from June 1 to 7.
Whatever reason the Malaysian Athletics Federation (MAF) come up with for this poor state of affairs – even if their sponsor Mizuno could not supply them with the official attire in time – is unacceptable.
MAF should have been better prepared for such a prestigious and premier junior athletic event in which 18 countries competed.
Granted, the association is trying to stand on its own two feet unlike many of the others, which rely heavily on the National Sports Council (NSC), but at least the athletes are well attired whenever they travel with NSC’s support.
To see our athletes at the youth event in all kinds of colour did not put Malaysia in good light.
Just three weeks ago, in this column, I had said athletics was beginning to shine again with many budding athletes on the rise, whose future looked bright.
I had also said that the athletes had to be well looked after, guided and given the best coaching opportunities and exposure.
To send a contingent to an Asian-level meet poorly attired certainly does not give such an impression and does not do much for their image.
If these athletes get disillusioned at an early age, the future of athletics may be in danger.
I do not advocate spoiling the athletes but they must be treated with respect and dignity.
MAF had given each athlete an allowance of RM180 for the seven-day event, which works out to about RM25 per day.
Again, I do not advocate splashing money on the athletes but surely they could have been given a more decent allowance? Twenty-five ringgit is about US$6 and in a country where US dollars are commonly used, the amount would not have taken the athletes very far.
They could not have bought their peers from other countries a decent meal or drink, or purchased souvenirs for their loved ones with a princely US$6!
I just hope some of the athletes did not resort to selling their vest or T-shirts to souvenir hunters for extra cash!
Yes, the athletes were provided with accommodation and all their meals but they could have still been given something like RM50 a day.
Athletes for the Malaysia Games (Sukma) probably get more.
Maybe MAF are cash-strapped and that was all they could afford. If that was the case, the association had better start working on raising funds through sponsorships or donations.
I know MAF are trying to get things right but it must be a concerted effort by the whole council, not just a few individuals in the council. If anyone wants to serve on the council, they must be prepared to work hard to raise money for the association and take care of the athletes. Otherwise, they should do the honourable thing and step down; make way for those who are genuinely interested in the sport and want to contribute.
Indeed, athletics is the poor cousin of football.
When they travel, the national footballers – be they seniors or juniors – do it in style. They wear suits and are given a suitcase of attire and equipment, not to mention handsome allowances and bonuses.
No wonder many youngsters prefer to play football rather than take up athletics.
Meanwhile, our young athletes did Malaysia proud at the recent event, winning three gold medals, three silvers and a bronze out of the 44 at stake. They finished fourth on the table while Japan finished at the top with 13-10-4, China in second place (11-7-4) and India in third place (7-4-6).
Without doubt, Malaysia has a crop of young people who have the potential to raise the athletics profile of the country. So, MAF had better look at ways to keep them happy or it stands to lose a few of them to other sports.
There is no need to pamper the athletes but give them the necessities.
I wonder if MAF assist athletes in securing running spikes through sponsorship or they have to fend for themselves.
Once an athlete makes a name for himself, he will have no problem in getting sponsors. But in the early days, when they are struggling with expenses, they should be given all the assistance they need.
Let’s give our young athletes the respect they deserve and, hopefully, they will reward the country with respectable performances.

TONY is a sports
journalist with more than
three decades of experience
and is passionate about
local sports.
He can be reached at
tmariadass@gmail.com
Twitter: @tmariadass​


Friday, June 3, 2016

Has austerity drive been ignored?


Commentary









Have the cost-cutting measures announced by the government earlier this year been seriously observed by the sporting bodies?
All signs point to the contrary. And to make matters worse, money is being spent on things that are unimportant to the fraternity.
The money is for training, medicine, supplements, sports science, coaches or anything related to producing champions, especially for the Rio Olympics or even the SEA Games next year which Malaysia is hosting.
But when the National Sports Institute or Institut Sukan Negara (NSI/ISN), in a hush-hush manner, unveiled a new logo last Friday afternoon in a hall that was enveloped in black cloth for a “night atmosphere”, one begins to wonder.
Is a new logo going to change anything for NSI? What matters is the service it provides the athletes.
The present logo is a registered trademark and though it is not going to cost much to register the new logo, the rebranding exercise certainly will. 
Changes will have to be made to everything - from the letterheads, corporate shirts and T-shirts, standees and logos on NSI ambulances to the NSI logo on the official letters, documents, calling cards and so on of the many sports associations.
Probably, newly appointed NSI CEO Dr Mohd Khairi Zawi and his deputy Ahmad Zawawi Zakaria wanted to start afresh with a new logo that they both designed, and leave their “legacy” behind. But this looks more like a wrong call.
The unveiling of the logo was supposedly a “pot-luck” affair with the staff members having to pay a minimal sum, according to their rank, for the catered food. Those who paid were given the event’s T-shirts.
More surprisingly, the two senior officers had their offices renovated, replacing the carpet with wooden flooring, painting the walls black and installing large mirrors. This seems like a waste of precious funds, especially when the NSI have had their budget cut drastically over the last two years.
Their staff strength has also been reduced, with the termination of the services of many long-serving temporary employees.
It is also learnt that the protein supply for the athletes has been cut because NSI does not have enough funds.
Meanwhile, holding workshops at holiday resorts is also questionable, especially when the cost-cutting measures clearly state that government facilities have to be used for such purposes. Also, the consumption of food and drinks and the use of buntings and banners during conferences, seminars, meetings, courses, workshops and other official functions have to be reduced. Similarly, the use of event management firms and the handing out of door gifts or souvenirs during events.
All these rules are there so that the limited funds made available to NSI are prioritised for the athletes and not frittered away for events that are of no benefit to them.
It will be interesting to see how much is spent on the Malaysia Games (SUKMA) that will be held in Sarawak next month. Are there going to be lavish opening and closing ceremonies?
It is only a tournament for junior athletes and thus should be kept very simple. But that has never been the case for almost all the Games hosted so far.
Malaysian sports seriously needs to cut out all the frills and extravaganza and just stick to its core. Money meant for sports should be used only for sports and its improvement, and not to create a circus.
Without doubt, the money allocated for sports is a huge sum despite the cutbacks but it still cannot be channelled into the wrong areas.
Countries with very much less allocation for sports and do not have the facilities, technology, expertise or science have done way much better than Malaysia.
So, the question that needs to be asked is, where have we gone wrong and how can we address it urgently?
Otherwise, we are going to continue to waste millions with no results that commensurate with the money spent.
It is time for stock-taking and put Malaysian sports on the right path – which is a long shot but nothing ventured, nothing gained!

TONY is a sports
journalist with more than
three decades of experience
and is passionate about
local sports.
He can be reached at
tmariadass@gmail.com
Twitter: @tmariadass​

Friday, May 27, 2016

Cheap publicity stunts



Commentary








High jumper Nauraj Singh Randhawa is the flavour of the month but it is sad to see how he is being manipulated by some to promote themselves, their products or their companies.
Ever since Nauraj qualified for the Rio Olympics after his winning effort of 2.29m in the Singapore Open, he has not only been bombarded with interview requests from the media but also sought by companies looking to ride his current popularity.
There is nothing wrong in wanting to back an Olympic qualifier but the manner in which everyone is queuing up to exploit him is appalling.
Companies and sports councils offering Nauraj a meagre RM2,000 and having the news highlighted in the press is certainly a cheap shot at marketing themselves.
Nauraj should vet such invitations so that he is not taken advantage of but being new to the publicity circus, and being the ‘nice guy’ he is, he is probably obliging all of them.
Maybe the Malaysian Athletic Federation (MAF) should take the lead in guiding the athlete and not jump on the bandwagon.
Genuine support for Nauraj is welcome but it should be a contribution for the long term and not a one-off pittance, like the ones he has received so far.
There were even efforts to get Nauraj to endorse equipment for a small payment but he was wise enough to decline.
It is sad that many want to be associated with a sportsman when he makes the headlines but steer clear when genuine cases require assistance, especially in grassroots development.
But then again, there are responsible corporations that emphasise sports development and come forward every time their help is sought even by the smallest club in the most remote of places, and they do it without any publicity. These are corporations that hold sports close to their heart and whose corporate social responsibilities are clearly defined.
If there are organisations or individuals who wish to back Nauraj, for starters, they could help his father, Amarjit Singh, go to Rio de Janeiro to watch his son compete.
Amarjit has not only been a source of inspiration for Nauraj but has also supported him fully with whatever means he had.
The 56-year-old is currently unemployed and maybe assisting him in finding employment would be an act of kindness.
After all, it is through the efforts of his parents, Amarjit and Manjit, that Nauraj has been able to do his nation proud. They were there to advise him when he contemplated quitting the sport after suffering a serious ankle injury, which required reconstruction of his ligaments, in 2011.
Many athletes have been exploited in the past when they were in their prime or were up-and-coming. But once their form declined or they had served their purpose, they were dumped by their supporters like a hot potato.
Just look at how many of our former sportsmen and women who brought honours to the nation have been forgotten. In their old age, many of them are struggling to make ends meet while some of them are unemployed.
When double international (cycling and walking) Rosli Abdul Kadir’s plight – he was eking out a living washing cars – was highlighted two years ago, how much of assistance was he given? Unfortunately, Rosli died in a motorcycle accident early this week. 
Even when some of these icons start grassroots programmes to give back to their sport, they get little or no support.
The National Athletes Welfare Foundation (Yakeb) is in place but whether it is doing enough is debatable. It is pointless to make contributions after an athlete dies. 
Medical insurance is available but this was recently reduced from RM5,000 per year to RM2,500 and conditions were added under which repayment for medication will only be made if it is obtained from a hospital.
Many of our ex-athletes have expressed dissatisfaction at this state of affairs. Some do not even utilise the subsidy because they cannot purchase medicine from the pharmacies and medicine is expensive at the private hospitals. And at the general hospitals, the waiting time is just too long. Moreover, many of the athletes are old and some of them are immobile.
Giving a little bit of aid when a member is in hospital and having the news splashed all over the newspapers is certainly unnecessary when Yakeb's primary function is to look after the ex-athletes. More often than not, this kind of publicity is embarrassing to the athlete on the hospital bed and certainly cheap publicity for Yakeb.
Maybe, it is about time Yakeb working in collaboration with the National Sports Council should consider a pension scheme for ex-athletes?
Yakeb’s new chairman Datuk Malek Noor, a former national bodybuilder, probably can look into making this body more relevant.
When there is so much that can be done for our present and past athletes, it is sad that many pick and choose to whom and how much they want to contribute and in the process seek publicity at the expense of the athletes.
Let’s treat our athletes with respect and dignity.

TONY is a sports
journalist with more than
three decades of experience
and is passionate about
local sports.
He can be reached at
tmariadass@gmail.com
Twitter: @tmariadass​

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Olympician cyclist NA Rosli passes away this morning

Former Olympian cyclist NA Rosli passed away this morning after being involved in a motorcycle accident he was riding on. Deepest condolence to his family. Below is an Icon story done on him on June 14, 2014 in the Malay Mail.
Tony Mariadass's photo.

ICONS FROM THE PAST
ROSLI ABDUL KADIR
Famed cyclist Rosli washes cars in his ageing years
By TONY MARIADASS
tmariadass@gmail.com
IN the Olympic Council of Malaysia Hall of Fame and Malaysian cycling annals, he is considered a hero and icon.
But in real life, Rosli Abdul Kadir, who turns 75 on June 21 and should be spending time leisurely enjoying the fruits of his labour, is still washing cars to earn his pocket money.
The father of eight children and 23 grandchildren, was a member of the gold medal winning team on grass at Merdeka Stadium in the 1963 Asian Championship.
A double international having represented the nation in Big Walk too, Rosli having made his debut at the 1962 Asian Games in 1962 in Jakarta, retired in 1973 after many medals and honours.
In Big Walk he had competed in the 1973 Sea Games where he finished fourth besides winning numerous walking meets in the region including The Malay Mail Big Walk where he had won the junior veterans category thrice in-a-row to keep the challenge trophy.
But the accolades and honours earned as a cyclist, was not good enough to find him a decent job to bring up his family.
Rosli had to work as a driver, odd-job worker on contract and gardener, before he decided to try his hands at car washing.
It all started about 30 years ago when he managed to get CIMB in Damansara to allow him to wash their employees’ cars in their premises.
Three months ago, he moved to the CIMB Sentral office when the Group Administration and Property manager, Mohd Khairizal Mohd Khalib, allowed Rosli to continue to wash cars at their new premises.
Armed with motorcycle which has a specially fitted carrier to carry two pails of water he goes up and down the car park washing his regular clients’ cars three times a week.
He charges RM50 a month for monthly clients and RM 5 for random clients a wash.
“I have about 40 regular clients and together with random clients, I can earn about RM1,000 a month which is suffice for me survive,” said Rosli whose wife passed away last year and stays with his youngest one son in a low-cost rental at which he pays RM124 per month.
“I am very grateful to Encik Khairizal for giving permission to operate in their premises. He is an ardent sports fan and took pity on me and allowed me to earn my living washing cars at the bank’s premises.
“I have been doing this for more than 30 years and I am not ashamed of it because I am earning an honest living and working hard for it,” said Rosli who was inducted into the Hall of Fame last year.
Rosli said that he does get assistance from The National Athletes Welfare Foundation (YAKEB) where his medical bills are taken care off.
“I am grateful to YAKEB too for assisting me and many other past athletes with our medication bills. We have a medical card given by YAKEB and use it to get our monthly medical supply.
“Otherwise, I do not get any form of assistance in cash or kind. Not that I am complaining, but it would have been nice to be remembered for our services rendered to the nation and in our old age to get some form of recognition in form financial assistance like pension.”
When YAKEB launched their 1Ringgit 1Malaysia campaign in 2009, they had presented Rosli RM2,000 and a bag of rice to Rosli and his family.
“But thank god that I can still work, and can earn some pocket money washing cars. I use the money for my daily expenses, buys some gifts for my grandchildren when I can and save some just in case there comes a day I cannot come to work.
Rosli, who hails from Bunut Payong in Kota Baru, Kelantan, said he came to the city in the 60s to attend the trials for the Asian Games cycling for three days and on a hired bicycle.
“It was the passion to represent the nation and do honours which saw him leave home and I have no regrets despite my current position. I enjoyed every minute of the eleven years.
“And to see my two sons – Nor Effandy and Noor Azahar – take up my footsteps and don national colours was a proud moment for me.
“At least they are better off, as in their era there were efforts to take of employment for athletes. Nor Effandy under former KL mayor Tan Sri Elyas Omar got a job as an enforcement officer with City Hall.”
Rosli said that sports will be benefit from officials who are truly passionate about it and have the welfare of athletes at heart.
“Elyas was truly an exemplary sport official who has done a great deal for Malaysian sports.
“But more often than not officials are there for their own benefits and athletes are often neglected.”
However, Rosli said that athletes these days have it good and should be performing much better in the world arena.
He suggested that athletes in all sports should be more exposed to overseas training methods and more importantly competed in top level competitions and regularly.
“The only way for Malaysian sports to rise is to compete against the best regularly,” said Rosli.
ACHIEVEMENTS:
1962 – Bronze medal in team 100km Asian Games Jakarta
1963 – Represented nation at the Commonwealth Games in Australia
1963 – Gold medal in 100km team and bronze in 200km team event at the Asian Championship in Kuala Lumpur.
1964 – Olympic Games in Tokyo
1966 – Asian Games in Bangkok
1967 Silver medal in SEAP Games in Kuala Lumpur
1969 SEAP Games in Bangkok
1970 – Bronze medal at the 200km Asean Cycling Championship, Singapore
1971 – Silver medal at SEAP Games in Kuala Lumpur
1973 – Fourth in 20km Big Walk at Singapore Sea Games

Friday, May 20, 2016

Athletics on right track


Commentary








ATHLETICS is finally heading in the right direction and the fact that a pool of young talented athletes has emerged augurs well for its future.
The sport was in the doldrums for a long time due to lack of talent, neglected grassroots development, internal politicking, weak management and conflicts with stakeholders and related bodies, like the sports schools, Ministry of Education (MoE) and the National Sports Council (NSC). Now at last, all the parties seem to be in sync, having sorted out their differences and working together to lift the sport.
Whatever the supposed shortcomings of Malaysian Athletics Federation (MAF) president Datuk Karim Ibrahim, the national body seems to have got its act together and established a good relationship with the MoE and NSC.
Dr Mehander Singh, director of sports at the MoE, who took office last October, has been a breath of fresh air and is truly sports oriented. He is certainly the right man to helm sports in schools, having graduated as a teacher with a physical and health education certificate in 1980 and attained his bachelor’s degree in the same field in 1988, a master’s degree in education (curriculum and instruction) from the University of Houston in 1995 and finally his doctorate from Universiti Sains Malaysia in 2005.
The 56-year-old was deputy director of Raja Melewar Teachers Education Institute for four years before assuming duties with the MoE. He had also served with the ministry as the head assistant director of the sports division for six months from 2010.
And now, with Zainal Abas, the athletics head coach of the SEA Games 2017 project and former teacher and athletics coach with the Bukit Jalil Sports School, as the assistant director, Mehandar looks set to take not only athletics but also sports in schools to the desired level.
Additionally, there is Datuk Ahmad Shapawi Ismail, who has been the director-general of the NSC from December 2014. He has vast experience in the development of sports, having started off as an officer in the athletes’ preparation unit in 1988 and rising to the director of the unit in 2007. He was also directly involved in the Jaya 98, Gemilang 2001 and Doha 2006 programmes. With such professionalism, things are indeed looking up for athletics.
We must not forget the Tunku Mahkota Ismail Sports School (SSTMI) in Bandar Penawar, Johor, which is on a par with the more famous Bukit Jalil Sports School and which, under the able leadership of headmaster Suhaimi Sun Abdullah, is factory to a lot of talented athletes. 
Coaches like Poad Kassim and teachers in the various states too have played a role in the revival of athletics in this country.
It must be noted that the MAF has appointed a new breed of coaches for the 2017 SEA Games project, who include former national athlete Josephine Mary (400m women/relay), Hamberi Mahat (400m men/relay), Entheran Subramaniam (middle/long distance), Teh Weng Chang (pole vault), Shahadan Jamaluddin (hurdles), Balamurugan Maniam (short sprints) and Lim Teoh Boon (walking).
Foreigners, such as Alex Stewart (high jump), Samuel Kipsang Rono (middle and long distance) and Leo Almando Brown (sprints and hurdles) who have come aboard recently, and Gu Yuan (hammer throw), Franstisek Petrovic (discus), and Victor Sotnikov and Alim Akhmejanov (jumps), have also been coaching in Malaysia for some time now, are playing a role in the rise of the sport.
The happy result of all these efforts has been a new and young crop of athletes who are already making their mark.
When asked for his comments, athletics icon Tan Sri Dr M Jegathesan observed: “It reminds me of my running days in the 1960s when we had a big pool of athletes who were all of calibre and who went on to make their mark.
“Currently, we have a handful of talented athletes and it is important that they are guided well and given the best training and exposure to realise their true potential.”
While high jumper Nauraj Singh Randhawa, who qualified on merit to attend the Rio Olympics in July, is the latest sensation in the field, there many other athletes waiting to exhale. Names that come to mind include Arvinn Thevarr (200m), Jackie Wong Siew Cheer (hammer throw), Hakimi Ismail (triple jump) middle-distance runners M. Kesavan, Asif Rahman Jiyaudee, Putra Azrul Shazwan Azman and Shreen Samson Vallabouy, and 4 X 100m women’s relay runners S. Komalam Shally, Siti Fatima Mohamad, Zaidatul Husniah Zulki and Nurul Faizal Azma Mazlan.
Then we have athletes from SSTMI like sprinters Badrul Hisyam Abdul Manap and Muhammad Haiqal Hanafi, their relay teammates Muhammad Azam Masri, Muhammad Nazreen Ezat Che Hassan, Khairul Hafiz Jantan and Asnawai Hashim and middle-distance runner Muhammad Saiful Safwan Saifuddin. Among the women, we have sprinter Nor Aliyah Abdul Rahman and middle-distance runners J. Puspa Letchumy and Faradilah Raznie.
Rising school athletes comprise Grace Wong Xiu Mei and Ngu Ing Biao (hammer throw), A. Manissha (2,000m steeplechase), Nurhashima Shahril (shot putt), Chan Sau Mun (pole vault) and Eizlan Dahalan (high jump), to name but a few.
The young ones having already made an impact at the Singapore SEA Games, Philippines Open, Asean Schools Games and the South East Asian youth championship in Thailand.
 Sherren and Nurul Faizal were placed second and third the Taiwan Open 400m final yesterday.
Vietnam’s Thi Ngoc Hoang took first place in 53.79s while Shereen, who is running in her first international event since last year’s Sea Games in Singapore where she won the bronze medal with her personal best of 54.26, clocked 55.28s yesterday. Nurul Faizal finished 55.72s.
Our young athletes could create more headlines at the Asian Junior championship in Vietnam, and the Kazakhstan and Hong Kong Opens next month.
There is a lot of promise in athletics at the moment but the key thing is for everyone concerned to not lose their focus and keep their eyes on their goals. 

SEA GAMES 2017 1st phase programme (Sept 2015- Sept 2016) list of athletes:
(Men)
1.     Adi Aliffuddin Hussin 2. Ahmad Luth Hamizan 3. G Aravin Thevarr 4. Abdrul Hisyam Abdul Manap 5. K. Dinesh 6. Harith Ammar Mohd Sobri 7. Iskandar Alwi 8. Jackei Wong Siew Cheer 9. Johathan Nyepa 10 M. Kesavan 11. Mohamad Arif Zulhilmi Alet 12. Mohamad Shamrin Mohd Aris 13. Mohd Izzuddin Yahaya 14. Mohd Shamimi Azmi 15. Muhaad Firdaus Musa 16. Muhammad Azam Masri 17. Muhammad Hakimi Ismail 18. Muhammad Irfan Shamsuddin 19. Muhammad Khairul Harith Harun 20. Muhammed Ashraff Saiou Rahman 21. Muhd Ajmal Aiman Mat Hassan 22. Nauraj Singh Randhawa 23. Nixson Kennedy 24. Rayzam Shah Wan Sofian 25 Russel Alexander Nasir Taib
(Women)
1. Bibi Nuraishah Ishak 2. Chuah Yu Tian 3. Elena Goh Ling Yin 4. Fatin Faqihah Mohd Yusof 5. Grace Wong Xiu Mei 6. Kirthana Ramasamy 7. Komalam Shally Selvaretnam 8. Ku Munirah Ku Zamzuri 9. Noor Amira Mohamad Nafiah 10. Nor Shahidatun Nadia Mohd Zuki 11. Norris Foo 12. Nur Fatin Abidah Suharman 13. Nurfazira Jalaludin 14. Nurul Faizah Asma Mazlan 15. Raja Nursheena Raja Azhar 16. Saidatul Izzati Suhaimi 17. Savinder Kau Joginder Singh 18. Shereen Samson Vallabouy 19. Siti Fatima Mohamad 20 Yap Jeng Tzan 21. Yap Sean Yee 22. Zaimah Atifah Zainuddin

TONY is a sports
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