Equal Ground

Published: Sunday October 12, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Sunday October 12, 2014 MYT 7:56:09 AM

Coaching a class of champions

Sports and studies are to be enjoyed for their own sake; with proper consideration for fairness, ethics, respect and a sense of fellowship with one’s competitors. 

IN one class at a university in KL, a lecturer calls his students “champions”. They, in turn, call him “coach”.

This was in keeping with an understanding on both sides that their learning field is essentially a nurturing ground for excellence.

Like in sports, the students chose subjects where they think they can score and they look up to their lecturer for the proper guidance to achieve the best grade possible.

The lecturer is there to also help mould virtues, such as fairness, self-control, courage and persistence, among the students to make them well-rounded individuals.

Essentially, sports and studies are about cheering each other when victory is in sight and encouraging each other when the chips are down.

In the sports arena, we saw this happening among our Malaysian athletes in the just-concluded 17th Asian Games in South Korea.

Before going to Incheon, the athletes had trained hard for the events they were taking part in, and officials were confident of netting at least eight gold medals for the nation.

At every event, there was always a group of Malaysians cheering for the players and when our athletes won the gold, they proudly stood to attention when the Jalur Gemilang was hoisted and the Negaraku played.

Wushu athlete Tai Cheau Xuen was the first to deliver and the whole country rejoiced. It was unfortunate, however, that towards the end of the Games, the Malaysian Wushu Federation had to return to the Olympic Council of Asia the gold she had won.

The federation, however, continues to stand solidly behind her, adamant that Cheau Xuen is not a drug cheat despite their failed appeal against her expulsion for failing a dope test.

At the same time, Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin was upset when a Facebook user belittled the achievements of squash queen Nicol David at the Games.

Fans across the nation shared his angst against the FB user, who pooh-poohed Nicol’s win just because she was playing in a sport that had yet to earn Olympic recognition.

The minister was not concerned if the unsporting remarks were aimed at him but it was not fair for Nicol and all the other athletes who had gone to Incheon to bring honour to Malaysia.

Sure, winning a medal in the Olympics is the ultimate aim of every sportsman and sportswoman but squash is just waiting for its turn to be there.

So, winning a squash medal in the Asiad and Commonwealth Games serve as the biggest honour the sport can accord for the country.

Furthermore, Nicol, a seven-time world champion, is now the country’s most successful Asian Games athlete, having won a record five gold medals since 1998, including a team gold in 2010.

This also meant Nicol is the most successful squash player in Asian Games history.

Often, those who criticise are not at all perfect and do not even walk as an exercise, let alone take part in any sport or active recreation.

A fitting way to deal with such detractors would be to thrust them on court with Nicol and make them crouch in the firing line of her smashes.

There were also many naysayers who took pleasure in scoffing at the national contingent’s medal haul of five gold, 14 silver and 14 bronze.

But chef de mission Danyal Balagopal is adamant that Malaysia did not make a mistake in setting the eight gold medals objective.

There were clearly some good showings in some sports that give hope for the future, he said.

In my school days, the students were all for sports and the most awaited event of the year was the inter-school sports meet.

We shouted encouragement when we saw our school athletes in action and we also cheered the champions from the other schools if they were not competing against our own heroes. It was simply an occasion to watch the champions strut their stuff.

While they go into an event hoping to win, they were never short of admiration for the boy or girl who beat them to the finishing line. This was the best show of true grit any athlete could show.

At the end of the day, it is about sportsmanship; an aspiration that sports – and studies – is to be enjoyed for its own sake, with proper consideration for fairness, ethics, respect and a sense of fellowship with one’s competitors.

> Shah A. Dadameah is an associate editor at the News Desk. He has shed tears of joy and defeat, but accepts that it’s all in the game.

Tags / Keywords: sports, armchair critics

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