KUALA LUMPUR: Participants of the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) workshop at the National Sports Complex in Bukit Jalil yesterday agreed on one thing no time must be wasted if Malaysia hope to win a first ever Olympic gold.
Although the input was diverse, those present, including past and present former coaches and players, Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) secretary Datuk Sieh Kok Chi, sports consultant from National Sports Council (NSC) Joe Dolcetti and representatives from the media, felt that a long-term plan had to be implemented immediately.
The workshop, themed Towards winning the first Olympics gold medal, was held to garner ideas on how the country can make a breakthrough in the Olympics, beginning with the Beijing Games in 2008.
So far, badminton is the only sport that has managed to win Olympic medals for Malaysia. Our sole silver medal was won by the men's doubles pair of Cheah Soon Kit-Yap Kim Hock in the 1996 Atlanta Games, in which Rashid Sidek also bagged a bronze in the men's singles event. The other bronze medal for the country was won by the men's doubles partnership of Razif-Jailani Sidek in 1992 in Barcelona.
At the discussion yesterday, former All-England champion Tan Yee Khan said BAM have to get cracking in devising a long-term training plan to chart success in the Beijing Games.
Do not wait until one year to do so. We have to start preparing the players now. We need to identify those who will shoulder the challenge and prepare a plan leading up to the Olympics, said the former national coach.
Recalling his experience from guiding the Sidek brothers, Razif and Jalani to the All-England title in 1982, Yee Khan said a lot also depend on how badly the player wants to win.
We must find the players who are ready to make sacrifices to bring glory to the country. If he has to train 10 hours a day in order to win, so be it.
Former national coach Han Jian also concurs: Ad hoc preparations for players before the Olympics is a joke. The mental training and motivational sessions should start early, and not just one month before they leave for Athens.
If Malaysia are to win a gold medal, they have to get a team ready now. Provide strong sparring partners and send them for overseas competitions regularly.
Seven-time All-England champion Datuk Eddy Choong said the lessons learnt from the Thomas Cup and the Olympics implied that the national players must make concerted efforts to be on par with the best players, like Lin Dan of China.
We cannot measure up to the champions yet. Our players may be of world standard but we still do not know how to win. Our players should also be well versed with their opponent's weak points if we want to go far on the world stage, said Eddy.
Besides the efforts of the BAM, Eddy suggests the BAM look into rewarding the states.
The best players from the states are taken into the national academy. The states usually lose out as they have spent time and money in grooming them. BAM should pay the states transfer fees and the states can then fund more development programmes to produce talents.
BAM should also look at the welfare of the national players. Perhaps a retirement scheme, where a player gets benefits depending on the length of his time in the national team.
BAM president Datuk Mohd Nadzmi Mohd Salleh promised to give more focus on sports science to improve the standard of the players.
I want BAM to become a learning institution. Badminton has become a high intensity sport and if the knowledge of sports science can aid the player to get that extra edge over their rivals, I am all for it.
With more urgency and a more scientific approach, Malaysia's dream for an Olympic gold may not be so far away.