IF Malaysia wants to have a good future in sports, there has to be more emphasis on athletics. There are no two ways about it.
Malaysia’s recent showing at the Singapore SEA Games in athletics was disappointing, as we only won three gold, two silver and nine bronze medals altogether. This is the lowest ever haul in the history of the games.
We finished sixth overall in athletics. Thailand finished top with 17 gold medals, followed by Vietnam with 11 gold and Indonesia with seven gold medals. Even Singapore and Philippines finished ahead of us.
In terms of the number of overall medals in athletics, we finished fifth.
This year our gold medals in athletics came in the triple jump, high jump and discus events through Mohd Hakimi Ismail, Nauraj Singh Randhawa and Mohd Irfan Shamsuddin.
We did all right in the field events, but the track was downright disappointing. No gold in the 100m, hurdles or long-distance running events.
How have we failed in this aspect?
Athletics is the simplest form of sports as there is not much equipment needed – making its cost low.
Unless you are Usain Bolt or someone like that, athletics might not be the “sexiest” of sports.
But it is the most competed in sport at the world level and there must be more concerted efforts to improve on it.
Back in the ’70s, Malaysia was one of the leading powerhouses in Asian athletics with the likes of Tan Sri Dr M. Jegathesan who won three gold medals at the 1966 Bangkok Asian Games.
His time of 20.92sec in the 200m semifinals of the 1968 Mexico Olympics still stands till today. That’s 45 years!
Others who still have long-standing records include huddler Nur Herman Majid, and sprinters Watson Nyambek and G. Shanti.
We certainly lag behind Thailand and Vietnam in the region and nowhere close to the likes of Japan and China at the Asian level.
Yes, we won gold medals in many other competitions in the recent SEA Games, but athletics, alongside gymnastics, is the foundation for all sports. It is where one learns to be flexible.
This flexibility is important when it comes to any other sport be it basketball, hockey, badminton or football.
In short, to be a good sportsperson, you have to be athletic. Yes you can start playing football at a young age but athletics helps out very much in the development of sportsmen.
We have to get the basics right again.
> The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.