While holidaying in Australia recently, I observed a shining example of a successful nation in sports.
Its government supports sport development programmes for its entire 20 million population without discrimination.
It is truly sports for all its people, including veteran athletes.
When, in the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, Australia won no gold medals, the nation’s self-esteem went into steep decline.
The Australian government responded in 1981 by promoting sports among its entire population besides the sport for elite athlete development programme.
Today Australia is a world leader in sports. By 2000 Australia had reasserted itself, finishing 4th in the medal count at the Sydney Olympics and 4th again in Athens in 2004.
One of the prime reasons for its success is that the whole population of all age groups is behind the government in sports.
Yes, our Government has adopted most of the Australia's strategy: development of sports science, medicine, nutrition, psychology and physiotherapy.
It has even partly funded the development of sports among the Paralympics athletes. But our senior and veteran athletes have been left out.
Recently, the Youth and Sports Minister promised the Paralympics athletes the same monetary rewards given out to our national athletes.
But what about the veteran athletes who returned in November with 10 gold medals from the 14th Asian Masters Athletics Championships held in Bangalore?
For the past 32 years since the inception of the World Masters Athletics Championships and followed by the Asian Masters Athletics Championships, the veteran athletes from Malaysia have trained and participated in these championships on their own and brought honour and glory to the nation, yet no recognition in cash or in kind has ever been given to them.
Maybe our Cabinet Sports Committee should look into this matter so that the veteran or master athletes who win medals at the Asian or World Masters Athletics Championships would be rewarded so that our whole nation is truly in the forefront of sports for nation building.
LEE KONG YEN,
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