The Malaysia contingent during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in Scotland in July. — Picture by Getty
THE Incheon Asian Games officially begin today and at the end of the Games on October 4, there is going to be another review of the performance of the contingent.
So, what is new? This has happened after every Games and still fresh in our minds is the review of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games last month.
Some drastic measures need to be taken, not just talked about.
Associations that pay no heed to the development of their respective sports and have no proper programmes, training schedules or proper selection methods need to be sidelined until they toe the line.
After each sports debacle, we hear the same old story . that action will be taken against associations that fail to produce results, funds will be cut, only athletes who qualify on merit will be selected and the list goes on, but come the next Games, everyone is on board for another debacle.
Targets are compromised to show associations have won medals and after millions of ringgit spent on every Games, we only aim for minimum medals.
No one wants to strive for more medals because it means more work, pressure and living up to promises.
So everyone chooses the easy way out by setting low targets and saying that anything more is a bonus.
Studies too have been conducted in recent years, but the fi ndings have been swept under the carpet because they speak the truth. And truth hurts and pinpoints the associations that have been slacking.
The things that have been pointed out in these studies include:
a) Athlete preparation . the majority of the NSAs are below the benchmark required
b) Most of the NSAs are below the benchmark for the organisation of national competitions
c) A good number of them are below the benchmark for competing in international competitions
d) An alarming number of them were below the benchmark for competition framework pathway
e) Some of the NSAs were found to be lacking in development, giving recognition and incentives, and preparing their national team.
A shocking finding is that the majority of the NSAs have lost control of their associations to the National Sports Council (NSC), which, after having funded them heavily, has taken over their programmes and athletes.
So now, these NSAs have little say in the selection of their athletes and coaches for programmes, although they claim otherwise.
This needs to be addressed. Otherwise, there is no motivation for the NSAs to establish development pathways.
The NSAs must have a common framework for talent identification and athlete development, without which they have no consistent and agreed mechanism to carry out these processes.
It is obvious that the absence of such a framework has led to the emergence of an NSC-controlled athlete development structure.
On the face of it, Malaysia has many of the requirements to have a successful elite sport system. However, investigations show that the system and the main developers of elite athletes - the NSAs - lack real development. Their shortcomings include:
œ A lack of strategic planning
œ Very few sports with a holistic competition structure and no club structure for most sports
œ Virtually no membership records
œ The need for substantial development of their financial policies and procedures After a number of sports were dropped and some sports associations withdrew, the Malaysian contingent to Incheon comprised 365 athletes and officials and was headed by chef-de-mission Datuk Danyal Balagopal Abdullah.
Malaysia will be participating in 24 of the 36 sports contested, namely aquatics, archery, athletics, badminton, bowling, boxing, cricket, track cycling, equestrian, football, gymnastics, hockey (men & women), kabaddi, karate, rugby, sailing, sepak takraw, shooting, table tennis, taekwondo, beach volleyball, weightlifting and wushu. The target is one gold less than the nine won in Guangzhou four years ago.
It would be interesting to see the end-result, but whatever happens, all indications are that another review is in order after the Games.
Whether a serious effort is made to put Malaysian sports on the right path this time around, especially when we spend so much money on sports and have some of the world's best facilities, is left to be seen.
But if we tumble into the same hole, then Malaysian sports will continue to fall short of excellence through our own doing.