Gauging our progress

The Asian Games is the best indicator of how competitive our athletes are on the international stage.

The Asian Games is the most important platform for the Malaysian contingent at any multi-sport events. Not the Sea Games, not the Commonwealth Games and not even the Olympics. At least as far as I am concerned.

While the Sea Games are important, the competition is often at too low of a standard while the Olympics is too high of a standard for our athletes.

The Asian Games is the best opportunity to measure how our athletes stack up against the continent’s best athletes, some of whom are the best in the world.

It also is the best measure of how we are progressing as a sporting nation. Are we moving forward or regressing?

This year, Malaysia is sending 288 athletes to Incheon, South Korea and they are competing in 25 out of the 36 sports contested.

We have been doing progressively better in the past few editions of the Asian Games since the 1980s when we won four medals at the 1982 New Delhi Games, ten at the 1986 Seoul Games and eight at the 1990 Beijing Games.

In the following years, Malaysia has won 19, 29, 30, 42 and 41 medals respectively at the 1994 Hiroshima Games, the 1998 Bangkok Games, 2002 Busan Games, 2006 Doha Games and 2010 Guangzhou Games.

These tallies include gold, silver and bronze medals. In terms of gold, our best outing was four years ago in Guangzhou where we won three golds in squash, two each in karate and bowling, and one each in track cycling and wushu.

Malaysia has set a target of eight gold medals this time, with emphasis placed on the same sports that won us the bulk of our medals in 2010.

In a way, Malaysia has moved from the “traditional” sports such as athletics and badminton to squash, wushu and bowling.

So not surprisingly, squash queen Nicol David who was also the Malaysia flag bearer, will be the main person to look out for.

I'm afraid that the days of the likes of Datuk M. Jegathesan who has won four Asian Games gold medals in athletics – three of them in the sprint events at the 1966 Bangkok Games - are gone.

Our best athletics showing in the past few editions was in 2006 when Roslinda Samsu won a silver in the women’s pole vault and Noraseela Khalid won a bronze medal in the women’s 400m hurdles event.

In general our athletics programme seems to have slipped compared to our Asian counterparts.

Our last badminton gold came in 2006 when Tan Boon Heong and Koo Kien Keat stunned everybody to win the men’s doubles badminton event.

Lee Chong Wei will be raring to win a gold medal this time, after the disappointment of playing second fiddle to Chen Long in the recent World Championships in Denmark.

Chong Wei won the bronze in 2006 and silver in 2010. It is the right time for him to make the transition to gold, although it is not going to be easy at all.

Our hockey team also has to make amends after a poor showing in the recent World Cup held in the Netherlands. They would do very well to match the silver medal they won in 2010.

It would also be too much to ask of the football team to repeat their bronze medal heroics at the 1974 Tehran Games. Qualifying from the group stages would be a very good achievement, since they have South Korea and Saudi Arabia to contend with.

All in all, we should not look too much at the medal tally but whether our teams can perform well and the individuals can better their personal bests. If they can do that, the medals will come in.

> The views expressed are entirely the writer's own.
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