Starting them young

AT the close of the biggest multi-sports games in Rio, we finished below Vietnam and Singapore.

Some might feel aggrieved by this, but I think getting an Olympic medal, even a bronze, is something to be celebrated. So to come away with four silver medals is something that we should applaud.

Our women divers Pandelela Rinong and Cheong Jun Hoong started the ball rolling with a silver in the 10m synchronised platform event, with cyclist Azizulhasni Awang following with a bronze.

And then came our three finals in badminton.

The one that slipped away was in the men’s doubles final featuring top pair Goh V Shem and Tan Wee Kiong. If only those two serves went over the net … but that’s life and it happens. There is a fine line between winning and losing.

The other two finals were not as close and our shuttlers were beaten by much better opponents on the day.

First, mixed doubles pair Goh Liu Ying and Chan Peng Soon were outclassed by the Indonesian pair of Tonotowi Ahmad and Liliyana Natsir.

That left us with Datuk Lee Chong Wei who has been burdened with winning our first gold medal. And after his exhausting semi-final epic against nemesis Lin Dan, he just couldn’t match Chen Long in the final.  

But whatever it is, winning an Olympic medal is not an easy thing to do. You are competing with the best athletes and sportspeople who want that gold medal very badly.

When Joseph Schooling won Singapore’s first ever gold medal, I was quite happy. I myself was surprised with my reaction later on, because well, it’s Singapore. Maybe it’s just on the football field that the rivalry with our neighbours gets intense.

If an athlete from South-East Asia can beat the mighty Michael Phelps, you can’t help but admire him.

Schooling’s achievements are not down to Singapore. It was down to him and his parents who sacrificed so much.

We can blame the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) and the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) when our shuttlers or football team don’t do well, but the buck doesn’t stop with them.

Ultimately, it has to start with the parents.

Why is it that so many parents don’t encourage their kids to excel in sports? It is probably not a unique problem that parents want their kids to excel in education, as there is no guarantee that their children can make sports into a career.

But that’s just the reality of it. The odds are your child is not going to make it big. But you need a big pool to get that exceptional talent who will make it big.     

There is only a finite number of children who can qualify for sports schools. 

Once you have that raw talent, you need the respective associations to polish them into diamonds. 

Do you think Nicol David would have made it to where she is in world squash without the sacrifices of her parents?

Parents have to send their kids to practise almost everyday. You are going to miss out on a lot of things, such as social occasions, but that’s the price a parent has to pay to see their kids succeed in sports.

There will be a lot of heartache, especially when the kids are not picked to compete for whatever reason. And there is the possibility that the child will not do well in school because of commitments.

There’re risks, but it’s really up to parents. 


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