Friday, December 9, 2005

Medallists must not rest on their laurels (09/12/2005 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 09/12/2005
Headline : Medallists must not rest on their laurels

NOW that the dust has settled after the euphoria over Malaysia's 61-gold
medal haul in the 23rd Philippines SEA Games, which ended last Monday, it
is time to take a reality check.
The results must now be seen from a clearer perspective, instead of the
contingent going overboard with their best ever achievement in an "away"
SEA Games.
Instead, athletes must use these results to spur them on to better
performances in higher-level competitions.
Undoubtedly, a round of applause is in order here, for Sports Minister,
Datuk Azalina Othman Said, the National Sports Council (NSC), Olympic
Council of Malaysia (OCM), chef-de-mission Low Beng Choo and her two
deputies, supporting staff (both administration and logistics), medical
crew, officials, coaches and team managers to most important of all, the
athletes who won medals in the Games.
It was a job well done with tremendous teamwork and there was also a
fiery display of the Malaysia Boleh! and Harimau spirit.
But instead of still having our heads in the clouds, let us get our
feet back on the ground and start striving for better things.
Malaysians have a bad habit of resting on small laurels, and not
noticing the big picture.
Let us not forget the accomplishments are only at South-East Asian
level - which is the lowest level of international recognition.
It is about time we look at Asian level, and maybe to a certain extent,
the Commonwealth and ultimately, the Olympics and world honours.
Let us not forget that Nicol David is proof that Malaysians are capable
of winning world titles.
The badminton players and bowlers have also achieved that.
The 61-gold haul was no small feat, as they were from 441 at stake, as
compared to 444 in the Vietnam Games two years ago.
But there were 392 gold medals in the 2001 Kuala Lumpur Games, and only
233 in Brunei two years earlier. At the Jakarta Games in 1997, there were
448 gold medals.
Based on statistics over the years, the 61-gold haul is relatively a
good figure.
However, one must take into account that Indonesia, power-houses in the
SEA Games fared badly this time around, raking 49 golds and finishing
fifth behind Malaysia.
In Vietnam, Indonesia won 55 golds and in KL, 71.
It is quite obvious that some of the medals Indonesia were earlier
expected to win were eventually won by other countries.
The rise of Vietnam and the Philippines' exceptional performances also
saw a shift in the medals tally.
All things considered, Malaysia's haul deserves an ovation. And now, it
is time to move on.
Apart from overseas training, what these SEA Games medalists also need
are top-level competitions if they are to improve.
Most athletes, in their moments of triumph, have voiced the lack of
local competitions as blocking them from improving further.
Azalina, in an immediate response, had said she would be looking into
the problem and it is hoped it would be resolved soon because this is the
direction most of the other countries are heading.
For instance, the Philippines' overwhelming success has been attributed
to their overseas stints, which included training and competitions, and
they do not intend to stop with the SEA Games.
The Filipinos are looking at similar preparations for next year's Asian
Games in Doha.
There are plans to build a a major one-stop training centre in Subic
Bay, to ensure the SEA Games medalists continue their training.
Vietnam are no different and so are Thailand, whose athletes are sent
for training not only in Asia, but also the United States.
Without doubt, there is an urgent need for Malaysia's top athletes to
venture out of the country if they want to excel.
They have to leave the comfort zone, make sacrifices, work and train
hard, compete against the top athletes and, above all, adopt a
professional culture if they are to become the best.
For as long as our athletes remain cooped in their home nest, they are
not going to achieve much success.

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