KUALA LUMPUR: After almost two years in the making, the Kita Juara programme is set to come to fruition when the KL SEA Games begin on Aug 19.
More than RM100mil has been spent as Malaysia seek to become overall champions.
To achieve that, Malaysian athletes will need to win more than 100 gold medals.
With so much at stake, Malaysia’s contingent – 871 athletes and 392 officials and coaches – know that a daunting task awaits them.
Can they deliver the overall title – like how they did in the 2001 SEA Games (111 gold medals)?
Malaysia will compete in 398 events out of the 404 that will be contested at the KL Games.
National Sports Council (NSC) director general Datuk Ahmad Shapawi Ismail clearly believes the target can be met – although he has some misgivings.
“One can never be sure of what we can achieve. All that needs to be done have been done under the programme. To be champions, we cannot be ordinary or just go after 50-odd medals (gold). We need to target 100 and more,” he said in an exclusive interview with StarSport.
“It’s not going to be easy.
“Thailand has also targeted 100-odd gold medals and they too have a contingent as big as ours. So, it’s going to be a battle in every way.
“The Kita Juara programme started soon after the 2015 SEA Games ended in Singapore, where we won 62 golds.”
The programme is divided into three phases.
The first – from Sept 2015 to Sept 2016 – saw a total of 877 athletes taken in under the programme and aided by 128 coaches.
During this phase, there were 478 training and competition stints locally as well as 172 overseas training and competition stints.
The second phase was from October 2016 to March 2017. This time, the number of athletes was reduced to 829 while the number of coaches was increased by 10 to 138.
Under the second phase, 315 training and competition stints were held domestically while the overseas stints totalled 134.
“The reduction was partly due to the fact that the Podium Programme had started and some of the Kita Juara athletes switched to the elite programme.
“So, in some ways our burden was shared by the Podium Programme,” explained Shapawi.
“The final phase started in April and will end with the SEA Games. Under this phase, all the athletes and sports selected by OCM (Olympic Council of Malaysia) will come under our purview.
“This involves all 871 athletes and 392 team managers and coaches. We will have around 180 local trainings and competitions and about 108 foreign stints.”
Shapawi said that RM131mil was spent on the first and second phases of the programme including Kita Juara Para Athletes Programme.
“The expenditure for the final phase (March to September 2017) comes under the organising cost. The total cost for organising the Games, facilities and the participation of our contingents (including the Asean para athletes) will come to around RM450mil.”