Friday, October 7, 2005

Reaping fruits of overseas stints (07/10/2005 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 07/10/2005
Headline : Reaping fruits of overseas stints

THE country's top sportsmen and women need to leave their roost for
long-term overseas stints if they harbour hopes of excelling in their
respective sports.
For far too long, Malaysian athletes have been getting cosy and
comfortable at home, not prepared to venture out into the world where the
real competitions are for them to improve.
This has caused the athletes to remain contented with performances at
Asean or South-East Asian level, and it is no surprise that results are
not forthcoming when competing at Asian or world level.
However, those sports, whose athletes have been sent abroad to train
and compete, have more often than not become the creme de la creme in the
Overseas stints not only expose the athletes to the latest training
methods under top and experienced coaches, but also open their minds to
different cultures and traditions. But more importantly, they get
top-level competitions almost week in and week out.
And with the Cabinet Committee on Sports Development this week agreeing
to convert the Tun Razak Research Centre in Herdfordshire, United
Kingdom, into a High Performance Sports Centre for Malaysian athletes
abroad, an opportunity has been created for more top sporting individuals
to train overseas.
Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had said he hoped to see
the centre operational by year-end, with the first batch of athletes sent
there to prepare for next year's Asian Games in Doha.
However, it is hoped that those selected to train there exploit the
golden opportunity to improve themselves, instead of complaining about
the cold weather, harsh training sessions and hectic schedules, or for
that matter, about the food.
In the past, we have had athletes, especially footballers, who have
overseas stints, but returned griping about the weather and food.
This has been one of the weaknesses of Malaysian athletes in general:
being too soft and pampered.
In contrast, athletes like hurdler Noraseela Mohd Khalid, squash
players Nicol David, Ong Beng Hee, Azlan Iskandar and Sharon Wee,
cyclists Josiah Ng, and Ng Yong Li, and snooker player Moh Keen Ho have
all stuck it out in countries such as Germany, Holland, the US, Spain and
In addition, they are also improving by the day, with several of them
achieving commendable results.
Another two - squash player Tricia Chuah and cyclist Uracca Leow - will
soon head for Holland and Switzerland. And indications are there probably
will be more.
To these athletes who have left the comfort of home, family, and
familiarity to strive for excellence in foreign lands, they should be
We need more such individuals who are prepared to make sacrifices and
possess the burning desire to achieve high standards and bring glory to
the nation.
However, the respective associations recommending their top athletes
for overseas stints must be thorough and judicious in their choices,
while the National Sports Council (NSC), who approve the names, must be
Especially now that Malaysia will have a training centre in England,
they should not be sending athletes overseas just for the sake of doing
At the same time, NSC must also look at deserving athletes who may have
been overlooked or neglected by their respective associations, and they
should be given the chance to achieve their goals.
One who springs to mind is walker Mohamed Shahrulhaizy Abdul Rahman, an
outstanding example of a dedicated, disciplined and diligent athlete, but
has not been given many opportunities to compete against the best.
The defending 20km SEA Games gold medallist had to virtually beg to
qualify for this year's Games in Manila.
As walk events are not very popular in the local athletics circle,
Shahrulhaizy did not have many opportunities to meet the Games qualifying
He finally did so at the Asian Track and Field Championships in
Incheon, South Korea, last month, where he finished sixth. And this only
materialised after he actually boarded the plane at the eleventh hour
following an appeal from his mentor and coach V. Subramaniam.
And the irony was if Shahrulhaizy had not gone to Incheon, he probably
would not have qualified for the SEA Games, because the national meet in
Penang last month did not have the 20 walk in its schedule!
Shahrulhaizy is one who deserves better for his dedication to the
sport, which includes training under Subramaniam even during Ramadhan,
where he is also fasting like other Muslims.
There may be many more like Shahrulhaizy who should be recognised and
duly rewarded. Otherwise, they may just fade away one day.

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