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Tuesday November 5, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Tuesday November 5, 2013 MYT 11:35:44 AM
In this Cafe Latte chat, we find out if there are back-up plans to replace ageing sports icons.
WHERE are the successors for World No 1 Lee Chong Wei in badminton and seven-time world champion Nicol David in squash?
Are the back-up plans in place to replace the ageing icons? What are the plans of the respective national sport associations in their bid to produce more world champions?
StarSports’ Rajes Paul finds out the answers from former stars and a sports administrator.
The discussion panel include Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) secretary Ng Chin Chai, former Commonwealth Games badminton singles gold medallist Wong Choong Hann and former national squash champion Mohd Azlan Iskandar.
STARSPORTS: Let’s go straight to the main issue of this discussion – where is our next Lee Chong Wei and Nicol? What is your opinion – in brief – on this?
AZLAN: In any sport there is always someone to look forward to – a role model, if I may say. It is the same in squash. We have seven-time world champion Nicol David. It takes time to develop an athlete into a world champion. You have to send players abroad, of course, with better funding. Importantly, we need a system to work. We have somebody like Low Wee Wern, who is pretty much up in the hill – among the top 10 in the world.
CHIN CHAI: If you ask me, there is no replacement for Chong Wei and Nicol, yet. Sports at the highest level is about talent. The stars are not made but born with talents. I don’t see anyone in the calibre of the two in the next few years. It will take a lot of work and we have to work as a team. It will be difficult as other powerhouses like China and Indonesia have a bigger pool to work on.
CHOONG HANN: I do agree that some athletes are born to be champions. At the same time, it is also the character and professionalism of these athletes, that enable them reach their goals. It is difficult to find a replacement for Chong Wei and to compare with the new generation players, there is a drastic gap.
STARSPORTS: Choong Hann, can you share with us – what was it like during your time. Did you sense then that this lack of talents coming through would become a problem?
CHOONG HANN: It is true players are not firm enough and lack the confidence. As a top player, they need a big heart to take the pressure. You need the confidence not only to win but also to overcome all obstacles.
STARSPORTS: Azlan, how was it in squash during your playing days?
AZLAN: Many of the girls in squash see Nicol as a player who is already at the top of the world and she has set the benchmark. Many of them just shy away because they just don’t have the belief to be like Nicol. But in the men’s section, it is quite different. We have a number of athletes coming up. But in the end, it is still up to them.
STARSPORTS: What can we do to increase the pool of players – Chin Chai, would you like to share with us some of BAM’s plans?
CHIN CHAI: Firstly, BAM will have to create a pool of potential players to be among the top 20 bracket in the world. We need to have a competitive set of players, at least five of them, at the top level and fighting consistently against each other. At the grassroots, we need two coaches in each state to groom 50-70 trainees aged nine-18. The clubs, too, will play as a feeder to the state. Only then, we can see the fruits in the next five-seven years.
STARSPORTS: Personally, what steps could be taken to narrow the gap that is there between the top athlete and the next in line?
CHOONG HANN: Strengthening the ground work is important for young players because they have so much to learn. I believe technique is an important direction we can take because the modern day badminton has evolved to become more technical than in the past.
AZLAN: When I retired, I still wanted to be part of the development of the sport.
Unfortunately, because we are not in the Olympics, we are handicapped in financial terms, but it is still something we are pushing for.
We are also fighting for squash courts and it’s ironic when we have the world number one in our ranks, but we have only about 400 playable courts in the country.
STARSPORTS: How many courts would it be enough?
AZLAN: About 1,000 courts, for a start.
STARSPORTS: We keep hearing from the former greats that school sports were a thriving thing during those days? How can schools play a more prominent role in this?
CHIN CHAI: Thirty years ago, kids play more than one game.
Now there are distractions – parlour games, television, Internet, etc. The Ministry of Education (MOE) has identified the rot and introduced the “1Student 1 Sport” programme.
It is a good initiative by the Government and hopefully the trend will change and we become a sporting nation like Australia.
AZLAN: A joint initiative by the schools and private sectors are needed to have more courts throughout the country.
In one of my academies in Kuala Terengganu, we have about 140 kids but only eight courts, so mathematically, it is not something right to develop the sport.
STARSPORTS: Datuk Dr Ramlan Abdul Aziz of the National Sports Institute (NSI) mentioned that they are now screening Standard One students nationwide for talent. Will that work?
AZLAN: I think it will give a great platform for kids to get into the system but bear in mind that some kids mature later than others but the initiative will give a general idea of how many talents we have out there.
CHIN CHAI: I think different sports have different start-up stages. The initiative by NSI is a good one because in Malaysia, most child became involved in sports because of their parents.
The initiative is some sort of scientific approach to put the right talent in the right sport.
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