Sunday, December 31, 2006

Doha debate (December 2006 - Malaysian Today)

Doha debate

THE debate on whether the Malaysian contingent to the 15th Doha Asian Games which ended last week, had passed or failed in their mission is still ongoing.

While general consensus is that the contingent have done better than all previous Games and thus have done well, there are still some media apprehension is that Malaysia fell one short of a gold medal from the performance prospect analysis (PPA) given by the National Sports Council, thus it was a failure.

There are some critics who say that NSC had under-targeted, although the media themselves have not come out in the open to say what was a reasonable target was and state their stand of how many gold medals was expected of the contingent.

Agreed, that the contingent fell one short of the targeted nine gold medals, and that some gold medals won, were not mentioned in the PPA.

But it must be underlined that PPA is a projection based on current performance of athletes, their personal bests, national records and that against the performance of the competitors.

It was not a figure picked out of a bag or by a wave of a magic wand.

But that again, the PPA was in no way the guaranteed medal haul expected, because in sports there is no guarantees.

There are other elements on the day of the event that might throw all projections out of the window, for instance the emergence of a competitor which has not been known to the general public, injuries, mishaps, tactical disasters and to a certain extend even the element of luck.

And it is only common in sports that when one projection fails to win a gold medal, another athlete might just step up make up for the loss.

The PPA is a projection and not the ultimate results expected because it never works that way in sports.

Malaysia’s final medal haul of eight gold, 17 silver and 17 bronze for a total of 42 medals is the best ever achieved by a Malaysian contingent since Malaysia competed in Manila in 1954. (The first Games was held in New Delhi in 1951, where Malaya then, did not compete).

There is a need to look at the bigger picture rather than be narrowed minded and harp on the eight gold medal failure.

Without doubt, the Malaysian contingent could have done better. There is no denying in that. Infact, if everything had gone well, Malaysia could have even returned with twelve to thirteen gold medals.

But nevertheless, the achievement by contingent, still needs to be acknowledged and we have to move on to plan for the future using this performance as a base.

Yes, there were failures in Doha and namely sports like soccer, hockey, shooting, boxing, road cycling, and to a certain extend karate (do not forget that although they won no gold medals, they were in four finals), sailing (despite winning a gold medal, while favourite Dr Kevin Lim did not deliver).

Rest assured the NSC will be taking the necessary measures to put these sports in their places.

The Youth and Sports Minister, Datuk Azalina Othman Said, has come out strongly to say that a ranking system for all sports is expected to be introduced, where fundings will depend on their current ranking status.

She has also indicated that sports who have been receiving funding for sometime now, but have not produced any outstanding results, may see them receive very much less funding and probably if there is any funding is given out, it will be to the development of the sports.

National Sports Associations (NSAs) too have to be held accountable for any failures, for just because NSC is involved in preparing and in some cases even developing their athletes, all blames should just be heaved to them. It is a partnership between NSC and NSAs and it is only fair that it moments of glory or despair, it should be shared equally.

At the rate things are going there is even a possibility that NSC might just hand out the funds for development (subject to scrutiny and approval) to the NSAs and allow them to do the development work solely but with Key Performance Index (KPI) to fulfil.

This will give NSC the time and manpower to solely concentrate on elite athletes.

Coming back to the Doha Asian Games, in the bigger picture surely the best ever gold, silver and total medal haul must surely mean something.

Only the silver medal haul taken into account will place Malaysia sixth in the tally, while only the 17 bronze medals will see us placed ninth and on a total medal haul of 42, Malaysia will also be placed ninth out of the 45 countries who participated.

The gold medal haul has now been spread over five sports (squash, bowling, wushu, badminton and sailing), instead of four at the last Games

Critics will still say that only badminton is among the Olympics sports (optimist is not among the events in Olympics sailing).

While it is fine to compare medal hauls from Olympics sports at the Asian Games, let us not forget that we are now reviewing the Asian Games and the medals won here were contested in Doha.

Besides, all efforts are being made to see other sports like athletics, shooting, archery, and gymnastics to move into the Olympics categories and it certainly cannot be achieved overnight.

The last Olympics just ended two years ago in Athens and to expect Olympic standard athletes to have been found in two years is like hoping for a miracle.

Malaysia’s overall standing from the last Games in Busan where we have move one rung up from 12th to 11th in Doha, must also be noted.

Among the South East Asian countries, we are second to Thailand, whereas kingpins in SEA Games like Indonesia, Philippines and even Vietnam are all below us. And the population of these countries certainly far exceeds Malaysia’s 25 million.

There were also several young athletes who emerged in Doha for example the badminton doubles gold winning pair Khoo Kien Keat and Tan Boon Heong, Ruffina Tan in sailing, Daniel Bego and Siow Yi Ting in swimming, Josiah Ng in cycling and Esther Tan in bowling who paint a bright future for Malaysian sports in the future.

The overall picture certainly paints a reasonably good outing for Malaysia and we should look on the positive aspects and use them as a foundation to better things.

If just the short of one gold medal is used as yardstick between success and failure, then does that mean that Korea who won 96 gold medal in Busan and finished fourth but who went to win only 58 in Doha and finished third overall, while countries like Thailand who targeted 15 gold medal but attained 13, Chinese Taipei who had 15 listed as their target but only achieved nine, are all failures.

Targets are meant to be targets and certainly not the magical figure which is certain to be achieved and an allowance must always be given for errors.

But at the end of the day, the Malaysian contingent (at least the majority of them) can walk with their heads high for the various achievements.

Let us not put a good thing down and be cynical about everything, but instead look at the bigger picture and move forward. Lets take one step at a time before we expect the giant leap!

G S B Total No. of Sports No. of Sports
(Gold Medals) (Total Medals)
Bangkok 1966 7 5 6 18 2 3
Busan 2002 6 8 16 30 4 14
Doha 2006 8 17 17 42 5 14

SEA Countries:

Thailand 13 15 26 54 9 17
MALAYSIA 8 17 17 42 5 14
Singapore 8 7 12 27 4 9
Philippines 4 6 9 19 3 7
Vietnam 3 13 7 23 2 9
Indonesia 2 3 15 20 2 11
Myanmar 0 4 7 11 0 5
Laos 0 1 0 1 0 1

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