KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Athletics Federation (MAF) have raised the bar by deciding to send athletes under Category A only for the SEA Games in Myanmar in December.
That means every athlete must have met the qualifying mark to be considered for the Games. MAF will no longer send athletes for the sake of giving them exposure.
With MAF setting such a high standard, Malaysia can expect a smaller number of athletes but higher quality performances from the athletics squad at this year’s Games.
On Friday, MAF president Datuk Zainal Abidin Ahmad informed the players of the new policy before sending off a group of athletes to the Thailand Open Track and Field Championships at the Thammasat University Sport Complex in Bangkok. The meet starts on Tuesday.
Zainal said that it was time for MAF to up the ante.
“From now on, it’s our policy to send athletes only under Category A. We want to raise the standard of our athletes and improve the quality of our team,” he said after giving a pep talk to the Thailand Open-bound team at the National Sports Council (NSC) track and field training ground in Bukit Jalil.
“I know that I’m putting my head on the chopping block by raising the bar high ... but our sport has been in a rut for some time now. We must not be satisfied with mediocrity any more.
“MAF will only send athletes under Category A and we will not spend a single sen to fund anyone under Category B.”
Category B athletes are usually funded by their associations and the money will only be reimbursed if they win medals. These athletes are those who have yet to meet the qualifying mark but seen to have the potential of improving on their personal bests.
“But if there are athletes who are best in the region but have yet to meet the qualifying mark, then we’ll review it case by case. Even then, we will not exceed more than one or two athletes,” he said.
So far, 12 athletes – 11 men and one woman – have met the qualifying mark for the SEA Games.
Zainal also urged the athletes heading for the Thailand Open to set new records and season’s bests in order to meet the SEA Games qualifying mark.
“It is not only about winning gold medals at the SEA Games ... we want our athletes to set new standards and break new barriers. Being a SEA Games winner is not enough anymore, we want them to become Asian Games champions. It all goes back to training hard and having the passion and drive to excel,” he said.
“This is also a message to the national coaches to push their athletes to go beyond their limits.”
Besides the Thai Open, the athletes will also take part in the Malaysian Grand Prix on Sept 7, Selangor Open (Sept 13-15), Armed Forces Open (Sept 18-20), Perak All-Comers (Oct 5-6) and the Malaysian Open (Oct 19-20).
MAF will name their SEA Games squad after the Malaysian Open.
The Thailand Open Squad:
Men: Mohd Robani Hassan (110m hurdles), Rayzam Shah Wan Sofian (110m hurdles and 4x100m), Iskandar Alwi (pole vault), Mohd Shahmimi Azmi (100m, 200m, 4x100m), Harith Ammar Mohd Sobri (100m, 200m and 4x100m), Anchois Aron (400m), Adi Aliffuddin Hussin (shot putt), Jackie Wong Siew Cheer (hammer throw), Mohd Faizal Mustapha (decathlon), Mohd Khairil Harith Harun (20km walk), Mohd Irfan Shamsuddin (discuss), Nauraj Singh Randhawa (high jump), Mohd Firdaus Mazalan (400m hurdles), Mohd Baihaqi Razlan (400m hurdles), Mohd Ajmal Aiman Mat Hasan (110 hurdles), Mohd Fahme Zam Zam (pole vault), Sebastian Lee Azcona (100m and 4x100m), Kesavan Maniam (800m and 1500m), Mohd Firdaus Kimleh (400m), Athur Aron (400m hurdles), Badrul Hisyam Abdul Manap (400m), Nirosh Kumar Nathan (200m), Mohd Hafiz Mohd Razali (110m hurdles), Ahmad Fikri Hakim Abdul Manan (100m) and Nik Farizal Erman Nik Abdul Hadi (triple jump).
Women: Komalam Sally Selveretnam (100m, 200m, 4x100m), Zaidatul Husna Zulkifli (100m, 200m, 4x100m), Zaidatul Husniah Zulkifli (100m, 200m and 4x100m), Noor Shahidatun Nadia Mohd Zuki (long jump, high jump), Kirthana Ramasamy (long jump, high jump), Yap Sean Yee (high jump), Raja Nur Sheena Raja Azhar (100m, 4x100m) and Kang Woan Yi (100m).
Coaches: Balamurugan, S. Muthiah, Petrovic Frantisek, Mohd Manshahar, Suhairi Effandi, Alim Ahmejanov, Halim Yatim, Ng Yet Seng.
Team manager: Mohd Ismail Mohd Ibrahim