The Rio 2016 Summer Olympics is eleven months away; it will be held from Aug 5 to 21. The question is, will Malaysia’s wait for the elusive gold medal end at it?
There was a big hue and cry following the below-target performance of the Malaysian contingents at the London Olympics, Glasgow XX Commonwealth Games and the Incheon 17th Asian Games.
In February this year, Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin announced the Podium Programme, which was formulated by a team of experts from the Western Australian Institute of Sports after a three-month intensive study of sports development in Malaysia.
Khairy also announced the formation of a taskforce to come up with a blueprint of the overall new programme within 100 days, and a Command and Control Committee to be headed by him, to monitor the progress of every party on a quarterly basis.
He also announced goals for the next four years: to be among the top 10 nations at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and 2018 Asian Games, and to win 50% of the medals in all the events Malaysia competes in at the 29th SEA Games, which will be hosted by us in 2017.
The Podium Programme was supposed to have been launched last month but has been postponed to a later late because of lack of funds.
Recall that in 2012, the then sports minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek identified 11 events - aquatics, weightlifting, cycling, badminton, gymnastics, men's hockey, fencing, archery, shooting, athletics and sailing - for the RM50 million 'Road to Rio 2016' programme.
He was hopeful that the programme would see Malaysia win its first Olympic gold medal.
The government had allocated almost RM20 million for the 'Road to London 2012' programme for the same purpose.
The Podium Programme, which aims to prepare the nation's best athletes for the Olympic Games 2020 in Tokyo, Japan, is an extension to the Road to Rio project.
The focused, tailor-made and scientifically prepared programme was launched for a selected group of athletes to give them the edge in fighting for medals at the Commonwealth, Asian and Olympic Games.
One of the drastic changes in the new model is the restructuring and redefinition of the roles of the National Sports Council (NSC) and National Sports Institute (NSI).
A clear direction has now been set for the NSC and NSI to work with all the national sports associations (NSAs) and state sports councils (SSCs) at every level.
In the past, the NSC and NSI had worked independently, creating duplication and problems between the two sports administrative giants.
Khairy said the NSI, under the leadership of CEO Datuk Dr Ramlan Aziz, will now be responsible for improving the elite athletes’ performance under the Podium Programme.
The NSC, with new director-general Datuk Ahmad Shapawi Ismail at its helm, will revert to its original role as the coordinator of all the other sports stakeholders to facilitate development programmes in order to create a wider base of talent at grassroots level.
Australian Damien Kelly was to return to the Malaysian sports scene to spearhead an exclusive group of athletes under the Podium Programme but he has yet to arrive.
In May, Keith Power was appointed as the national high-performance sporting director to look into the coordination of sports development programmes in Malaysia but nothing much has been heard about him since.
This lack of clarity raises the question of whether we are actually on the road to winning that elusive Olympic gold medal or still groping in the dark and hoping for some miracle to happen.
With Lee Chong Wei clearly not at his best, should he continue to be Malaysia’s hope for that gold medal?
Yes, we have London Olympics bronze medallist Pandelela Rinong and her fellow divers Ng Yan Yee, Nur Dhabitah Sabri and Ooi Tze Liang but to hope for a gold medal from one of them is wishful thinking.
Hockey has missed the cut and the other medal prospects - archery and cycling - are unlikely to fetch a gold either.
Tan Sri Mohamed Al Amin Abdul Majid has already been appointed Chef de Mission for the Olympics 2016 contingent but unless the programmes are up and running at full steam, there is nothing much he can do.
All indications are that it will be another Games of disappointment and a repeat of the same old story until another Games comes around.
It all boils down to putting a long-term programme in place and diligently working at it. But all we do is talk and talk about it Games after Games.
We will probably shift our focus to the 2017 SEA Games but hopefully it will be a harbinger of better things for Malaysian sports instead of just being a regional power.
TONY MARIADASS is a sports
journalist with more than
three decades of experience
and is passionate about
He can be reached at
and is passionate about
He can be reached at