JOHOR is experiencing a stellar year and is well on the way to achieving its aspiration of being a sports powerhouse.
The state is renowned for having the biggest football club in Malaysia, Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT), which has won numerous football titles including the AFC Cup in 2015 and recently picked up its ninth consecutive Malaysian Super League title.
Its junior teams have also been winning several football tournaments this year.
Johor’s athletes have performed well not only for the state in the recently concluded Malaysia Games (Sukma) but also at international level — SEA Games and Commonwealth Games.
Johor Sports Council (MSNJ) director Nor Syazlan Abd Razak said the performance of Johor athletes had been exceptional, with the state emerging champions at Sukma for the first time in the Games’ 36-year history.
He said the athletes began their preparations after the 2018 Sukma but this was interrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Some athletes had to stop because they needed to focus on their studies, especially those in universities.
“During the two years of the Covid-19 pandemic, they could not participate in sporting events including Sukma, which the state was supposed to host in 2020.
“They showed a hunger to succeed and they performed beyond our expectations,” he said in an interview with StarMetro.
He revealed that the secret to their success was MSNJ’s sports science unit, which helped monitor the athletes, especially during the pandemic.
The sports science unit has experts such as a dietician and a psychologist to support the athletes.
“During the movement control order, our athletes could not come to train and they stayed home,” said Nor Syazlan.
“So we sent the sports equipment to their homes and had the dietician and psychologist monitor them to ensure they remained physically and mentally fit.
“Once the government eased movement restrictions, we ensured that our athletes could train in a safe environment,” he said.
He noted that prior to Sukma, the state government had set a target of 55 gold medals but the athletes went beyond to bag 77.
He also paid tribute to state sports associations for recruiting young talents.
He added that MSNJ had forged close cooperation with various associations as well as the Johor Education Department.
Nor Syazlan said potential athletes among school students were identified through local tournaments.
“We let our junior and senior athletes compete together and this fosters healthy competition to ensure that Johor will always have high performers.
“Parents of our athletes have also helped to encourage their children to succeed,” he added.
Nor Syazlan said the next target was to make Johor a sports powerhouse in Malaysia.
“We want to continue making history and one day, hopefully in the near future, a Johor athlete will deliver Malaysia’s first Olympic gold medal,” he said.