Friday, October 7, 2016

Slumbering associations!


 THE 93th Malaysian Athletics Open at Universiti Malaya Stadium last weekend was a disappointment!
The venue was great, perched on a small hill with other heights in the backdrop, excellent tracks and a spectator stand to accommodate a small crowd, but that it did not have an electronic scoreboard detracted from the glamour of the meet.
Sadly, the championship hosted by Selangor AA and assisted by Malaysian Athletics Federation (MAF), received poor support from state associations, several of whom only sent token participation — less than 10 athletes in some cases.
Naturally, the quality suffered. Even the presence of athletes from six foreign countries — Kuwait (14 athletes), India (four), Philippines (11), Singapore (13), Thailand (10) and Brunei (five) — couldn’t entice states to send their best.
A total of 323 athletes (minus foreign participation) from 14 states, Police, Armed Forces and National Sports Council’s back-up squad competed in the three-day meet which staged 41 events. The Malaysia Games in Kuching in July had better participation.
There are athletes from schools, colleges and universities — all of whom have their own championships and were well represented in their meets. What has happened to them?
Do state AAs have data bases of their athletes and have programmes for them?
For the Malaysia Games, the athletes are handled by state sports councils who fund training, allowances, expenses and rewards for achievements.
State AAs have financial constraints and are unable to conduct proper programmes.
But is it not the duty of state AAs to look for funds for their activities? After all, MAF allocate RM5,000 to each state AA (depending on their activities and participation in the national championships and state meets).
Some state meets are a farce.
Can we blame the current state and standard of athletics in the country on the lackadaisical attitude of state AAs?
Those that sent a decent squad to the Malaysian Open included Johor (46), Armed Forces (38), Sarawak (26), Sabah (22) and Perak (20).
Eight states sent less than 20 athletes including hosts Selangor (17), while two East Coast states sent fewer than 10 athletes!
It was no surprise Armed Forces, which had gone on a recruitment drive, topped the meet with 16 gold, seven and six bronze medals.
The next best were Sabah (2-4-3), Kuala Lumpur (2-4-1), Selangor (2-3-4), Sarawak (2-2-5) and Malacca (2-1-0).
Only two meet records were broken last weekend.
Both by Kuwait in shot put (Mohammad Meshari’s 19.45m, erasing India’s Jaiveer Singh’s 18.44m) and in the 110m hurdles (Atyouha Yaqoub’s 13.83s, erasing Mohd Robani Hassan’s 13.85s).
In the past, events like the Government Services and Inter-Bank meets were as glamorous, if not better than the national championship.
Several states claimed their athletes had peaked at the Malaysia Games. This raises the question of planning and scheduling of events.
Olympian Nauraj Singh Randhawa skipped the event because he had not trained for five weeks since returning from the Rio Olympics where he had cleared 2.26m and just missed qualifying for the final.
The national record holder at 2.29m, Nauraj should have given the national championship more respect. He owed it to his fans after his Olympic debut.
That he did not train for five weeks and was in no condition to compete was a weak excuse.
The badminton players returned from Rio and despite hectic celebratory functions, trained and competed in the Korea and Japan Opens.
For the record Lee Hup Wei won the high jump with a clearance of 2.16m.
The national championship focused on sprinter Khairul Hafiz Jantan’s attempt to break the 48-year 200m record (20.92s) set by Tan Sri Dr M. Jegathesan.
Even Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin and his deputy Datuk M. Saravanan took leave from the F1 race in Sepang to be present to witness the ‘record breaking feat’.
But the Malaccan could only muster 21.10s to win from Armed Forces G. Aravinn Thevarrr, who clocked 21.14, with Sarawak’s Jonathan Nyepa (winner of 100m in 10.53s) finishing third in 21.18s.
Jega’s record was set was good for an Olympic semifinal at the 1968 Mexico City Games. Today, it won’t win you a gold medal in Asian meets.
The last Asian Games in Incheon had 20.14s as the winning time while the bronze medal was 20.18s.
At the Singapore SEA Games last year the gold medal was won in a time of 20.89 while the bronze medal time was 21.13s.
As long as we continue to set low standards, neglect talent identification and long term development work, we will remain athletic minnows.
The next Malaysian Open is expected to be in March to serve as final selection for the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games. It is hoped state AAs starting work from today to make a difference.

TONY is a sports
journalist close to
four decades of experience
and is passionate about
local sports.
He can be reached at

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