THE 15th Asian Games in Doha is well underway and after seven days of competition Malaysia have won two gold , three silver and two bronze medals.
The million ringgit question on everyone’s lips is whether Malaysia is going to surpass their previous Games in Busan’s achievement of six gold or even better to surpass the best ever achievement in the Games history of seven gold at the Bangkok Games in 1966.
But with the National Sports Council (NSC) having come with a “Performance Prospect Assessment” for a haul of nine gold medal, expectations is running even higher.
Many have questioned what on what is this new coined term, Performance Prospect Assessment.
It is certainly no crystal ball gazing or picking up a number from the hat to say that that is the number of gold medals expected to be won.
The figure NSC gave came about assessing athletes current performance, condition as apposed to performances of their opponents currently. A lot of work has been put in by head of Doha Asian Games preparations head, Damien Kelly.
Critics still say that the nine gold medal hopes is still a modest figure.
So what is the magical number then? With not even the media having not come up with the magical gold haul number in Doha, as far as NSC is concerned, it will be looking at the nine gold medal haul.
With bowling already having delivered their 100 percent expectations of two gold medals, although the two won was not in events that they listed down for – men and women team events – but in the women’s singles (Esther Cheah) and men’s trios (Alex Liew, Daniel Lim and Ben Heng), there could be more from them.
Except for the badminton team who has failed to reach the final when they went down to Korea in the semifinals, other projections given by NSC seem to be on target.
But of course silver medals from equestrian, swimming which were not among the medals in NSC’s list is a welcome sign.
But at the sametime, sports which were not in the performance prospect assessment chart, did not mean that they were no hopers. It was just that it was felt that it was more difficult to win medals in these events. As in the case of equestrian no medals were set for them by NSC, as the latter as not involved in the preparation of their athletes.
In anycase, NSC had clearly indicated that every sports which travels to Doha should be aiming for a medal and not just making numbers.
While despite bowling’s deliverance of gold medals, there is an apprehension that Malaysia will not do well.
There is a strong possibility that Malaysia’s gold rush will come next week when the Games will see most sports move to the final stages.
Many sports currently are still in the early stages of their competition while others like karate, athletics wushu and diving yet to start.
The Deputy Youth and Sports Minister, Datuk Liow Tong Lai who was here to visit the athletes and Youth and Sports Minister, Datuk Azalina Othman Said, who is here currently, have both expressed confidence that the athletes will deliver, despite hiccups from sports like badminton.
However, one thing is clear here in Doha, most of the giants at the Games like China, Japan, South Korea and even South East Asian kingpins, Thailand, have all come here with extensive preparation and huge amounts of money pumped to their sports.
Yes, Malaysia too have pumped in money to sports, but it is really compared peanuts when compared to these giants.
Sure, Malaysia’s size of population too is no comparison to these giant nations, but the fact remains that the sports play a vital part in their society and is treated seriously by all including the athletes because it is an opportunity for better living for them.
But for Malaysians who are more often than not in the comfort zone well before they can produce any respectable results, they always feel that there will be another day for them. Malaysia also lacks a good base of athletes in the various sports.
However for the Doha Asian Games, the expected medals should be delivered.
The athletes and coaches realise how important it is for them to perform here and deliver because it has been made clear to all of them of the importance of the Doha Asian if funding from the Government is to continue and increase.
And indications from athletes in Doha is that they will deliver.
Bowling could well be a shining example for other associations as they continue to perform and could well surpass their target by even 100 percent.
A bulk of the gold medal is expected to come this weekend onwards in sports like bodybuilding, karate, squash and wushu.
And it will be little surprise if our athletes even hit the big 10 or even more this time around.
There are bound to be some surprises, like badminton, but it will definitely not be for want for trying.
The performance here in Doha could well be a boost for the future of Malaysian sports.
However, there is a lot more that the athletes themselves have to do if they are to compete at the highest level and perform because competition is only getting tougher at both the world and Asian level.
Malaysia certainly needs a bigger pool of athletes and elite athletes having to excel at the highest level possible.
There is no more room for part-time or athletes who are not serious about sports but just marking their time.
The Government too has to make some bold decisions to send the message clearly to the athletes to emerge as world beaters, consistently and probably in a few selected sports.
It is sincerely hoped that in the next column there will be accolades for the athletes rather than brickbats because this is a do-or-die mission for Malaysian sports.