KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia will seek assistance from Cuba in raising the standard of sports in the country.
A high-powered delegation led by Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Azalina Othman Said will leave for Cuba on Sunday to look into ways to tap into the Cuban expertise in coaching and also their scientific preparation of athletes for competitions.
Also leaving with Azalina are Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) president Tunku Imran Tuanku Jaafar, National Sports Council (NSC) director general Datuk Wira Mazlan Ahmad and director of development Datuk Zolkples Embong.
Azalina said that the visit is a follow-up from Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's conversation with Cuban president Fidel Castro when he visited the country late last year.
The Prime Minister has asked us to look into tapping into Cuban expertise in areas like coaching and sports science, she said after a Cabinet meeting yesterday.
Our performance in the Olympics was a disappointment and we have to look into ways to make sure that we will be better prepared in the future.
We will be identifying and seeking coaches for certain high performance sports. Cuba have good coaches at the youth level and good scientists trained in sports science.
Among the sports Malaysia can benefit from Cuban assistance are athletics, boxing, gymnastics, karate and volleyball.
Cuban athletes have excelled in field events in athletics in recent years and their boxers have always been the ones to beat in the Olympics.
Azalina also said that the Prime Minister in the Cabinet briefing also delivered a strong message to the administrators of sports in the country to be more open minded to the ways of foreign coaches.
He gave a directive on not to interfere with the way the foreign coaches train and prepare our athletes, just because their training is not acceptable to the locals, she said.
There may be cases where the parents want to interfere because they cannot bear to see their children complain about certain things.
Citing an example where young gymnasts from European countries having to abstain from drinking water two hours before they are due to compete, Azalina said: I think our athletes have to toughen up in certain cases.
Sports have become more competitive and if certain countries are excelling in certain sports, we should look at how they become successful.