Wednesday, November 8, 2006

It's the gold that counts (August 2004 - Malaysian Today)

It's the gold that counts

WITH 97 days left for the Doha Asian Games today (Friday), there is mounting pressure for the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) and National Sports Council (NSC) to announce their gold medal targets.

And with the OCM all see to meet next week and announce the qualifiers for the Games, there is going to be additional pressure to come up with targets.

While it is good to set targets, but to come up with number of gold medals three month before the Games could well not only be putting undue pressure on the athletes, but even more importantly, revealing ourselves to competing countries.

Besides, anything can happen within these three months before the Games, and if there is a reason to change the target, it could well draw media criticism.

But that does not mean that there is no monitoring of the progress of the Doha bound-athletes.

In fact, the Doha 2006 programme unit headed by Damien Kelly is constantly monitoring not only the progress of our athletes, but also the progress of opponents.

At the weekly Doha Games management committee headed by NSC;s deputy-director-general, Datuk Zolkples, Damien gives an update of the targeted medals. There have been cases when it varies from time to because of latest developments with either the Malaysian athletes or opponents.

At this meeting also, the National Sports Institute, comes up with detailed reports on all athletes on work done with physiology, conditioning, nutrition, biomechanics, psychology, medical, the findings and observations in each field and the recommendations.

This information is used by coaches to get the athletes in better condition periodically.

But one thing is sure at this point of time, where Malaysia hopes to better it’s last Asian Games outing in Busan four years ago when they won six gold, eight silver and 16 bronze.

Malaysia’s best ever gold medal haul in the Games was at the 1966 Bangkok Asian Games where seven gold medal were won together with five bronze and six bronze.

In terms of total medal haul (all colours), Malaysia hauled 30 at Busan and that is the highest – one more than the one Games before that in Bangkok where the total haul was 29.

But nobody remembers the silver or bronze medalist, despite it meaning being Asia’s number two or three.

Malaysia’s worst outing in the Games since Malaysia started participating at the 1954 Manila Asian Games, was when they returned only with one silver and four bronze.

It is the gold medals that matters to all and will be the measurement for success or failure of the Doha programme.

Thus, the actual target for Doha has to be very carefully decided and announced because it is going to be used as the yardstick for success or failure.

Hence, is fair at this stage, instead of coming up with specific targets and identifying the sports or athletes, to say that they are going to better the Busan six gold medal haul.

But followers of sports in Malaysia, can readily predict the gold medal winners in Doha.

It would be appropriate probably to come up with the exact expected medal haul probably a fortnight before the Games and this will be a more accurate prediction.

Current unofficial predictions have been hovering between eight and ten gold medals.

Predictions can be made, but there is no guarantee in sports.

The best of preparations can go haywire at the eleventh hour. Sometimes in subjective sports, judging can be an issue. The element of luck to comes into play.

But at the end of the day, with the Government allocating huge sum of money for sports, there has to be accountability and results are the best justifications.

However, it is a collective effort with everyone – athletes, coaches, officials and support staff - working in unison and precision for the final product.

Maybe, it is time the media from all the experience over the years, come up with their medal prediction and check it against final results after the Games.

But one prediction which is going come out soon will be from the sports associations, but this will mostly like be an exaggerated one, because most of them will their sports to look good and justify their inclusion for the Games.

Whatever happens, the last call is with the athletes and hopefully they will return from Doha with reasons to be proud and see Malaysian sports continue to get the kind of support the Government has been extending to them.

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