I REFER to the article “Let’s go the distance – athletes share wishes and aspirations for 2019” (Sport, The Star, Jan 1; online at tinyurl.com/star-wishes).
Are our 57 National Sports Associations (NSAs) and the National Sports Council (NSC) doing enough to unearth sporting talent from the more than 10,000 schools in the country?
One common refrain from our champion athletes that cropped up often is the shortage of real talent coming from the grassroots level (not counting the sports schools where top young athletes are housed).
It’s nice that we have young talents such as world champion bowler Rafiq Ismail, Aaron Chia in badminton or Mohd Shah Firdaus Shahrom, our track cyclist, but we should not be too excited.
The NSC must work closely with the NSAs to benchmark and level-up. Imagine sending track and field athletes to the Olympics when they are at the SEA Games level, not even at Asian Games standards. Is that not a waste of taxpayers’ money?
Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman cannot take things for granted and must monitor closely the preparation of our elite athletes for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Selection should be based on performance and whether they have the potential to be a finalist or a medal winner – if not, reject them. The Olympics is not a holiday trip for athletes, coaches or accompanying officials.
It is critical for the NSAs to have proper structures and processes to spot and groom talent; they must think long-term, perhaps bring in professional coaches, technical directors and administrators.
At the 2016 Rio Olympics, Malaysia returned with five medals, four silvers and one bronze. This is the best achievement by the Malaysian contingent since our participation in Olympics, at the 1956 Melbourne Games.
To better that, the minister should ensure there are more grassroots programme development where, under the pyramid system at the national level, 12,000 to 14,000 student athletes vie for a place as the nations best.
The pyramid system ensures the best athletes are identified early and harnessed to aim for glory not at the SEA or Asian Games only but at the Olympics.
It is a tall order, and to help, the grassroots sports development programmes must be inclusive of all races to find the best in the country.
C. SATHASIVAM SITHERAVELLU