LEGENDARY American football coach Vince Lombardi once said perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.
The Perak Sukma contingent didn’t have the best of competitions in this year’s Sukma in Sarawak, winning only 12 gold medals, 26 silvers and 34 bronzes.
Perak placed 12th among 15 contingents and the state government and Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir expressed disappointment over the performance.
However, a few weeks later, diver Cheong Jun Hoong brought joy to the state when she won the silver in 10m synchronised diving event with her partner Pandalela Rinong to give Malaysia its first medal in the Rio Olympics.
Cheong’s family lives in Fair Park, Ipoh. The 26-year-old used to train with the state aquatics team until she left to further her training and studies at the Bukit Jalil Sports School in Kuala Lumpur in 2004.
With her success, the people of Perak are buoyed by the hope that the state will be able to produce more world-class athletes. Cheong isn’t the only one.
Diver Leong Mun Yee also hails from Perak and the 32-year-old is the first Malaysian diver to compete in three Olympic games.
The bronze medal that she and Pandalela won at the 2009 World Championships was also the first diving world championship medal for Malaysia.
Spurred on by the successes of athletes such as Cheong and Leong the Perak Sports Council created a roadmap for youth development in the state.
Under the National Sports Council, the each state’s sports council run a programme called “Unit Sukan Prestasi Tinggi Negeri” (USPTN).
“We work closely with the state government in developing young talent.
“We have 20 centres for various types of sports in the state,” said Perak Sports Council Director Musa Dun when contacted by MetroPerak.
Musa said the unit’s function includes development of age-group talent development and organising sports events so athletes get to compete with those fromother states for exposure.
On top of this, the State Sports Council will also conduct development initiatives such as talent identification, setting up centres of excellence at district and state level, organise school-level competition, and finally Sukma for athletes below the age of 21.
“Perak also works closely with National Sports Council (MSN) to monitor and assess athletes from the state who represent Malaysia.
“The State Sports Association also has a role in the development of young talent and we monitor their progress closely through monthly reports,” he said.
State Youth, Sports, Communication and Multimedia Committee Chairman Datuk Shahrul Zaman Yahya said the state started strategic planning in 2013 with the aim to be the best contingent in Sukma 2018.
Perak is set to host the next Sukma games in 2018 and the state government’s goal is to become the overall champion of Sukma 2018.
“We want to make sure that we win 15% - 16% of the total gold medals offered in the entire event. At the same time, we want to develop local talent for managing the technical aspect of sporting competitions,” said Shahrul
Musa said the council has lots of active sports associations under its supervision and it work closely with the associations to set up effective training programmes.
“Each association has its own coaches, either selected by them or provided by the state government via the Sports Council.
“All these associations and coaches are required to have a training plan and the execution is closely monitored by the State Sports Council.
“At the grassroots level, the State Education Department has been instrumental in working closely with teachers to run various training programmes for students.”
The council has plans to make sprinter Noor Eewan Syafiqah, shooters Nur Fatin Syairah, Wan Khaleeda Firdaus and Nur Fazirah Adzha, and long jumper R. Kirthana top-class national sportsmen.
He said the council will be sending them for more international tournaments, as they need the international exposure to become world-class athletes.
Musa said the state government is providing ample support for the Sports Council in addition to the funds allocated by the Youth and Sports Department and State Education Department.
“The allocations are then allocated to the state sports associations and USTPN programme.
“The allocations are utilised according to the plans that we set for any particular year such as building new sports facilities, getting sports equipment or sports technology and other needs,” he said.
When asked what the future holds for the state, Musa said Perak has produced many national athletes in the past and the council wants to bring back the glory days of the state
“We are looking to re-connect with former athletes so they can share their best practices and be involved in coaching and technical support.
“We are also looking to introduce more technology to improve the way we manage, train and work with athletes.
“We also been working closely with universities in Perak to increase the use of sports science methodologies, so we strongly believe that we are in the right track for more success.”
The poor results in Sukma 2016 was a bitter pill to swallow for Shahrul and he said the state government and Sports Council are going back to the drawing board to look back at their strategic planning.
“We will come up with a revamped strategic plan and with that we believe we will bounce back in 2018 and beyond,” he said.