Thursday, February 15, 2007

Athletes' dedication in question again (2007 - Malaysian Today)

Athletes' dedication in question again

IT is inevitable that the dedication of present day athletes has to be brought up once again, in the wake of the Government rewarding RM 6,950,800 last night at the dinner attended by the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak to athletes under Sports Winning Rewards Scheme (Skim Hadiah Kemenangkan Sukan – SHAKAM).

The athletes who were rewarded were the winners at the December 15th Doha Asian Games and the 9th Fespic Games hosted by Kuala Lumpur in November.

The athletes from the Doha Asian Games collected a total of RM2,246,000 for the total of eight gold, 17 silver and 17 bronze medals, while the physically challenged athletes pocketed RM 4,704,800.

Athlete Lee Sheng Chow was the biggest beneficiary from the Fespic Games with a total of RM190,00 for winning two gold and one silver, while bowler Esther Cheah took home RM198,333 for two gold and three silver medals.

Although, there are concerns that the physically challenged athletes should have a separate scheme because their events are unique in nature, the Government while the scheme comes in place, did not leave them out and gave the same as for the abled athletes under the SHAKAM.

The point is that be it a physically challenged athlete or able athlete, when they bring honours, they are handsomely rewarded.

These rewards are besides being the athletes fully sponsored by the National Sports Council where training allowance, accommodation, meals, education, medical benefits, sports science, training, coaches, air fares and even overseas stints, are all provided for.

In most sports even the prize money from tournaments goes back to the athletes.

Indeed, Malaysian athletes are a very lucky lot.

But sadly, a majority either do not realise it, or think that they are not getting enough.

It really puzzles as to why Malaysian athletes are not motivated enough to excel in sports and reach excellence results, as there is ample rewards awaiting them.

Infact, Malaysia is an envy of many foreign countries and athletes, where their athletes have to pay their own fare for international competitions like the Commonwealth Games and when the athletes win a gold medal, all they get is a handshake from their top Government officials and a commendation letter – not a single sen is paid in rewards.

For these athletes, their performance with their nation is a stepping-stone in their ambitions to become professionals in the respective sports.

And the sacrifice made by the athletes from these nations are immense, just to make the grade and move to the professional circuit where they have to continue to work hard to earn their rewards.

For all the money the Malaysian Government is dedicating towards sports, we should be producing champions in almost every sport we compete.

But it is not the case, because Malaysian athletes are a pampered lot, who are easily satisfied, do not have ambitions and more often then not get rewarded some mediocre performance, which is not even Asian standard.

Maybe, it is time for athletes to be made accountable too and should be asked to sign contracts for the funding they get, where when they fail to achieve certain standards, they have to pay back the Government, or have to serve the sports for a number of years under different categories based on their qualification.

What we have now is athletes continuously complaining that they are not getting enough and do not even have performances worth mentioning.

Of course sport globally has changed to a professional approach and cannot be compared to the earlier years when it was all about pride, passion and honour.

At the same time these, these values cannot be completely disregarded.

These days we have soccer players who ask the team manager at halftime, if their bonus is going to be topped up, so that they can go on to win the match!

We have top athletes quitting the sports at an early age, just because they have won some money through the rewards scheme.

To make it worse, these athletes do not even give back anything to the sports or society, what they have learnt and earned through sports.

More often than not there is politicking, bickering and mismanagement in sports associations and more often the parents too have joined in the bandwagon to make demands and make threats in what they consider is in the best interest of their children.

While applaud the athletes, both the physically challenged an d able athletes for their achievement, it must be stressed to them, that this is only the beginning and tey should have bigger goals and dreams to achieve.

It probably time to review the incentive scheme where lump sums of money are not paid, but where one secures the future of these athletes, where a bulk of the money is only paid out when they retire, in form of a monthly allowance.

Maybe, even look at the Korean model, where points are awarded for each success at a international level and the longer one stays in the sports and bring honours, the more points which are accumulated and get high pensions for life.

Rewarding our athletes is all good, but with large sums of money being given out, it has to be a win-win situation for both the athletes and the government and at the same time ensuring that performance at the highest level is always on the upward trend.

Sports is a serious business in Malaysia and it is about time the athletes realise it and act as professionals to give back the equivalent returns as they are supported and rewarded.

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