RIO DE JANEIRO: It’s a mixed bag of achievements. Or simply put, they could have done better. That aptly sums up the Malaysian athletes’ performance at the Rio Olympics.
Despite winning four silvers and one bronze in Rio de Janeiro for its best-ever Olympic performance, not winning its first ever gold will continue to haunt Malaysian sports.
It was supposed to be a celebration for Malaysia in Rio, the party capital of Brazil. Some Malaysian officials were quietly confident of getting a gold, but sadly it did not happen.
Malaysia had not one, but three chances but failed to convert them into a gold.
First, shuttlers Goh Liu Ying-Chan Peng Soon surprised everybody by reaching the mixed doubles final. But they went down 14-21, 12-21 to Tontowi Ahmad-Liliyana Natsir.
Two days later, Tan Wee Kiong-Goh V Shem came tantalisingly close, only to lose 21-16, 11-21, 21-23 to Fu Haifeng-Zhang Nan of China in the men’s doubles final.
Then, came the country’s great big hope – Lee Chong Wei – on Saturday. After getting nemesis Lin Dan of China out of the way in the men’s semi-finals, the bet was on him to finally triumph at the world’s biggest Games.
But the 33-year-old world No. 1 came up short against No. 2 Chen Long – losing 18-21, 18-21.
Chong Wei also lost in Beijing in 2008 and in London in 2012 – both times to Lin Dan.
Malaysia can now only cast an envious look at Singapore for winning its first-ever gold with Joseph Schooling stunning swimming great Michael Phelps to win the men's 100m butterfly gold.
And three other Asean neighbours – Thailand (2-2-2), Indonesia (1-2-0) and Vietnam (1-1-0) – also got on the gold chart.
Overall, badminton again achieved the best result with three silvers.
Diving contributed one through Pandelela Rinong-Cheong Jun Hoong in the women’s 10m platform synchro and the bronze came from cyclist Azizulhasni Awang in the men’s keirin.
Malaysian chef de mission Tan Sri Mohamed Al Amin Abdul Majid was pleased with the efforts by the 32-athlete contingent.
“We have done extremely well. The elusive gold is still elusive, but I think we are not far from it.”
Tunku Tan Sri Imran Tuanku Ja’afar, the president of the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM), also praised the contingent.
“It’s our best outing ever with four silvers and a bronze. Maybe it’s not the time yet for this elusive gold,” he conceded.
But he said Malaysia must start planning for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the next one in 2024.
“The Olympics is the pinnacle of sports. You’ve got to plan for it. It’s a long-term plan, nothing short term about it,” he added.
So, how would Malaysia perform in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics?
A total of 33 sports will be contested in Tokyo. Malaysia will again depend on badminton, diving and cycling for medals. Karate has been included and Malaysia stand a chance as it has some talented exponents.
Over the next few days the Malaysian officials will be flying back to Malaysia. On the 23-hour to 25-hour flight back, they need to reflect on Rio and start planning for the assault in Tokyo.