Aussie Ballard hired as MAF technical director

Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin (right) with the new technical director of athletics Robert Ballard (left) during the press conference in Putrajaya. Looking on is NSC director general Datuk Zolkples Embong.

PUTRAJAYA: Australian Robert Ballard has been appointed the Malaysian Athletics Federation (MAF) technical director of coaching.

Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said that Ballard is an experienced sports consultant and he is the right candidate to help raise the standard of athletics in the country.

“He has one month to submit his training programme for athletes and also for the national coaches.

“Ballard is given a two-year contract with a two-year extension option. And his task will be to help Malaysia become a powerhouse in athletics for the 2017 SEA Games which we will host.

“We also want our national athletes to do well at the Asian and Commonwealth Games as well as the Olympics,” said Khairy, who is unhappy with the athletes’ performance at the Myanmar SEA Games in December.

The Malaysian athletes had a poor outing at the Games where they only won four of the 45 golds at stake in athletics.

Khairy said Ballard, whose contract came into effect on Feb 1, will have KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to meet.

“And he too will have KPIs for the national coaches in his programme,” said Khairy.

Ballard, who specialises in strength and conditioning, said that he is aware of the state of athletics in Malaysia and he is confident of helping raise the standard.

“One of the main weaknesses of athletes in Asia is they lack the physical strength and conditioning. And I am here to help the Malaysian athletes improve on these two areas.

“Many athletes in Asia also don’t realise that they only peak in athletics when they are aged between 28 and 32,” said Ballard.

The 49-year-old has a proven track record as he personally coached the former fastest man in South-East Asia - Indonesian sprinter Surya Agung Wibowo.

“Wibowo clocked 10.60 in competitions but after six months of training him, he improved his time to 10.17 (in the 2008 Beijing Olympics 100m heats),” said Ballard.

He lamented Malaysia’s over-reliance on the same athletes to deliver medals.

“In every sport, there must be back-up athletes to replace the seniors. But I see, in badminton, there is no capable shuttler to replace Malaysia’s top badminton player Lee Chong Wei,” said Ballard, who intends to focus on three areas - identifying athletes, back up, and elite athletes.
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