Saturday, July 11, 2015

Olympic gold medal horizon widens


Level Field

There must surely be an air of optimism that Malaysia’s chances of an Olympic gold medal at the 2020 Games in Tokyo looks brighter and could well come from a few sports instead of just depending on badminton.
This optimism must surely stem from the fact that the Japanese organisers of the Olympics had on Monday chose eight sports from a list of 26 that had applied for inclusion in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
While baseball and softball remain on course to get back into the Olympics, squash, karate, surfing, tenpin bowling, roller sports, sports climbing and wushu are in contention to get into the games for the first time.
The combined bid of men’s baseball and women’s softball which were dropped after the 2008 Beijing Games looks a favourite to make the cut because of their popularity in Japan.
But squash after the disappointment of missing out on a place on the programme for the 2020 Olympic Games at the International Olympic Congress (IOC) Congress in Buenos Aires in 2013, certainly look forward at the opportunity to present their case again for a second chance bite at the cherry with their chances better for inclusion this time around.
The chance for the inclusion of more sports in the Games came about last December with the IOC approving new reforms known as “Olympic Agenda 2020” which allows the host city to propose more events.
In the Olympic Agenda 2020, IOC addressed questions under the three overarching topics of sustainability, credibility, youth. With a new philosophy in the bidding procedure they encouraged potential candidate cities to present a holistic concept of respect for the environment, feasibility and of development, to leave a lasting legacy. With these far reaching changes, IOC respects that there is no "one size fits all solution" for the sustainability of Olympic Games. They recognised host city candidates strive for very different development goals and start from very different points of development. Thus IOC embraced this diversity. In fact this diversity is part of the magic of the Olympic Games. They are global; therefore the standards of one part of the world alone cannot be the benchmark. The Olympic Games encourage this dialogue of different cultures. Each edition has to be different. Each edition has to be an authentic reflection of the cultural, social, environmental, sports background of the host.
The new “events-based” system allow for host cities to add new sports as long as they try to stay close to 10,500 athletes and 310 medal events.
The federations of the eight sports will next make presentations in Tokyo on Aug 7-8, and organisers will make recommendations to the IOC by Sept 30.
The IOC will make a final decision on which sport or sports will be added in August 2016, when it meets ahead of the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Thus, it is still early stages for any form of celebrations besides just giving a ray of hope for the inclusion of the respective sports in the 2020 Olympics.
For Malaysia, it will be hoping that squash, tenpin bowling, karate and wushu being included in the Games where they realistically stand a chance of winning medals.
However, it must be noted that if these sports do get included, it will be five years later and current top athletes including Nicol David will be five years older.
Besides, all other nations, starting with Japan will be doubling their efforts to win medals and competition really getting competitive.
If Malaysia hope to be contenders, they should have already have a good development programme which constantly produces fresh talent like bowling and squash.
In bowling we have youngster Rafiq Ismail who is now burning the lanes and will be 23 years in 2020 who should be in good position to make a strong challenge provided he keeps his feet firm on the ground together with several others on the rise. Bowling has never failed to churn out new talent and keep their sports relevant.
Their recent success in the Asian Youth championship in Macau and Singapore Sea Games underlines that they have a steady flow of bowlers.
Squash have an equally impressive development programme, but the problem they have not found another ‘Nicol’ yet.
Karate and wushu have done well and have a fair chance for medals, but the sport be a subjective one, and a lot is left to the interpretation of the judging officials and sometime biasness comes into play.
But still the two sports have a chance with the talent they have.
However, while waiting for the sports to be officially included in the 2020 Games, all the sports who have a fighting chance for a medal, should start working immediately with good programmes laid out immediately.
Even if the sports does not get included in the 2020 Games, these are sports which are competed in almost all other Games besides their own Asian and world championships and it will give them an opportunity to excel and make a stronger impact in these Games and championships to raise their profile.
Infact, the Podium Programme which was launched by Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin in February to provide a focused, tailored-made and scientifically prepared programme for a select group of athletes to give them an extra edge to win medals at the Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and Olympic Games should lead up to the 2020 Olympics.

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