Thursday, November 16, 2006

Overcoming Challenges, Inspiring Others (2006 - Malaysian Today0

Overcoming Challenges, Inspiring Others

THE run-up to the Doha Asian Games starting on Dec 1 is certainly going to overshadow the start of the KL’06 9th Fespic Games starting today right in the heart of the city today.

Yes, the week-long Games is being hosted by Malaysia and despite the huge publicity given to the Games in terms of advertisement in the newspapers, radio, television and banners, there is worry among the organisers that this event which will see 47 of the 63 member countries competing, get a lukewarm response from the public.

To the public, maybe the fact that the Fespic Games is competed by the physically challenged athletes, it probably is less appealing.

In fact, it should be even more response to make a bee hive to the Stadiums to watch these athletes compete in the true spirit of sports and determination that might even put to shame some of the elite athletes in the country.

Believe me, being there at the Stadiums to see these physically challenged athletes, will change ones outlook of life.

Many of us, take life for granted just because we see, hear, talk and walk normally. So much so that many, hardly appreciate the goodness we are blessed in our lives no matter in how small or little way.

There will not only be 288 Malaysian athletes – 226 men and 62 women athletes, but a total of an estimated 5,000 athletes competing for a total of 553 gold medals in 19 disciplines.

It will indeed be a life time opportunity to see what these physically challenged athletes are capable.

I had a rare opportunity to cover the 20th Deaflympic Games in Melbourne in January 2005 in my sports journalism career spanning 27 years, and I dare say that it was one championship which touched me in many ways and made me appreciate live better and especially the physically challenged athletes.

There were moments when I was close to shedding tears when I saw the grit and determination shown by these deaf athletes who competed as if there was no tomorrow and their life depended on the outcome.

Some of colleagues and friends when from the Malay Mail then, laughed and teased me when they learnt that I was going to cover the Deaflympics. But I have this to say to them : “I am having the last laugh because they had missed a life time opportunity to experience something so beautiful which would touch anyone’s life and make them look at life in a different way.”

I did not cover the Melbourne Commonwealth Games a few months later, but even having covered the Sydney Olympics in 2000, the experience I cherished at the Deaflympics far more surpass my experience at the Olympics.

In all my years of covering sports events, never have I seen so much passion shown by athletes in representing their nation and competing for glory.

I expect even more touching moments at the Fespic Games, and it will be an opportunity no Malaysian should miss it.

The Malaysian contingent have boldly predicted that they will be gunning for ten gold medals and these athletes certainly deserve all the moral support to not only achieve but even surpass their target.

The physically challenged are not less than a normal human being because they are more than capable of doing anything any ordinary human being can and in fact more.

Take for instance the Chef-De-Mission of the Malaysian contingent for the Fespic Games – Prof Datuk Dr Ismail Mohd Salleh is an academician and economist.

As he himself aptly put it: Disability is not a hindrance to excellence. We need the will and I believe the team can do it. I hope the people will treat us equally as the able-bodies athletes.”

Ismail who is blind, is proof that disability is not an hindrance to achieving high standards in sports and business.

Ismail is the president of the Malaysian Association for Blind and CEO of the Twintech Holdings Sdn. Bhd.

School children especially should take advantage of the schools holidays to be at every venue possible for the whole of this week to experience for themselves the courage of these physically challenged athletes.

Infact, if some of the Doha Asian Games bound athletes can witness some of the events before they leave for Doha, it would certainly do a great deal for the spirit and morale.

As the logo for the Fespic Games says – Overcoming Challenges, Inspiring Others – these athletes are usually going to make a difference in everyone’s life who take the opportunity to watch them in action.

The Prime Minister of Malaysia, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, himself will officially be declaring the Games open tomorrow (Saturday) at the Kuala Lumpur Stadium at Bandar Tun Razak at 4pm, that alone should underline the importance the government is paying to this Games.

This will be life time opportunity to many Malaysians and it is one they can not afford to miss.

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

It's the gold that counts (August 2004 - Malaysian Today)

It's the gold that counts

WITH 97 days left for the Doha Asian Games today (Friday), there is mounting pressure for the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) and National Sports Council (NSC) to announce their gold medal targets.

And with the OCM all see to meet next week and announce the qualifiers for the Games, there is going to be additional pressure to come up with targets.

While it is good to set targets, but to come up with number of gold medals three month before the Games could well not only be putting undue pressure on the athletes, but even more importantly, revealing ourselves to competing countries.

Besides, anything can happen within these three months before the Games, and if there is a reason to change the target, it could well draw media criticism.

But that does not mean that there is no monitoring of the progress of the Doha bound-athletes.

In fact, the Doha 2006 programme unit headed by Damien Kelly is constantly monitoring not only the progress of our athletes, but also the progress of opponents.

At the weekly Doha Games management committee headed by NSC;s deputy-director-general, Datuk Zolkples, Damien gives an update of the targeted medals. There have been cases when it varies from time to because of latest developments with either the Malaysian athletes or opponents.

At this meeting also, the National Sports Institute, comes up with detailed reports on all athletes on work done with physiology, conditioning, nutrition, biomechanics, psychology, medical, the findings and observations in each field and the recommendations.

This information is used by coaches to get the athletes in better condition periodically.

But one thing is sure at this point of time, where Malaysia hopes to better it’s last Asian Games outing in Busan four years ago when they won six gold, eight silver and 16 bronze.

Malaysia’s best ever gold medal haul in the Games was at the 1966 Bangkok Asian Games where seven gold medal were won together with five bronze and six bronze.

In terms of total medal haul (all colours), Malaysia hauled 30 at Busan and that is the highest – one more than the one Games before that in Bangkok where the total haul was 29.

But nobody remembers the silver or bronze medalist, despite it meaning being Asia’s number two or three.

Malaysia’s worst outing in the Games since Malaysia started participating at the 1954 Manila Asian Games, was when they returned only with one silver and four bronze.

It is the gold medals that matters to all and will be the measurement for success or failure of the Doha programme.

Thus, the actual target for Doha has to be very carefully decided and announced because it is going to be used as the yardstick for success or failure.

Hence, is fair at this stage, instead of coming up with specific targets and identifying the sports or athletes, to say that they are going to better the Busan six gold medal haul.

But followers of sports in Malaysia, can readily predict the gold medal winners in Doha.

It would be appropriate probably to come up with the exact expected medal haul probably a fortnight before the Games and this will be a more accurate prediction.

Current unofficial predictions have been hovering between eight and ten gold medals.

Predictions can be made, but there is no guarantee in sports.

The best of preparations can go haywire at the eleventh hour. Sometimes in subjective sports, judging can be an issue. The element of luck to comes into play.

But at the end of the day, with the Government allocating huge sum of money for sports, there has to be accountability and results are the best justifications.

However, it is a collective effort with everyone – athletes, coaches, officials and support staff - working in unison and precision for the final product.

Maybe, it is time the media from all the experience over the years, come up with their medal prediction and check it against final results after the Games.

But one prediction which is going come out soon will be from the sports associations, but this will mostly like be an exaggerated one, because most of them will their sports to look good and justify their inclusion for the Games.

Whatever happens, the last call is with the athletes and hopefully they will return from Doha with reasons to be proud and see Malaysian sports continue to get the kind of support the Government has been extending to them.