NOT even extra monetary incentives by the Malaysian Athletics Federation (MAF) could inspire track and field athletes to excel at the Indonesia Asian Games.
Discus thrower Irfan Shamshuddin, triple jumper Hakimi Ismail and high jumper Nauraj Singh Randhawa failed to impress in their respective events.
MAF president Datuk Karim Ibrahim dangled the carrot, hoping the athletes can end a 12-year medal drought but the Podium Programme trio fell flat.
RM10,000 was offered for a medal, RM5,000 for national record breakers and RM1,000 for a new Games mark.
Reigning Asian Championships silver medallist Irfan finished fifth with 57.70m, a far cry from his own national record of 62.55m.
Had the 23-year-old equalled his personal best, he could have won a silver as second-placed Mustafa Al-Samaah of Iraq only managed 60.09m.
The 27-year-old Hakimi must have wished that he cleared the 16.77m mark that won him gold at last year’s KL SEA Games.
Instead, Hakimi flopped with 16.15m while his rival Arpinder Singh of India matched his SEA Games-winning mark to claim the triple jump gold.
Hakimi said a back problem had affected his performance.
“I was not in good shape after injuring my back a couple of weeks ago. It wasn’t that serious, but my back muscle was tight and it limited my hip mobility,” said Hakimi, who posted 16.29m for a sixth spot in his debut in Incheon four years ago.
Team manager Leong Beng Keong took medal hopeful Irfan to task for under-performing.
“I’m saddened by the team’s overall performance at this Games, our athletes were just not good enough,” said Beng Keong.
“Irfan has under-achieved. He fared way below expectation and that is unacceptable.”
Malaysia last tasted podium success at the Doha Games in 2006 when women’s pole vaulter Roslinda Samsu bagged a silver and Noraseela Abdul Majid claimed a bronze in the women’s 400m hurdles.
Meanwhile, a technical mistake saw Malaysian men’s 4x100m quartet disqualified in the final yesterday.
Nixson Kennedy, Jonathan Nyepa, Muhammad Zulfiqar Ismail and Khairul Hafiz Jantan were automatically disqualified when first runner Nixson failed to switch the baton in the exchange zone before passing it to Jonathan.
National sprint coach M. Balamurugan said the team were unlucky and the mistake would be a lesson.