National artistic gymnastics teams to be disbanded and new coaches brought in

KUALA LUMPUR: The national artistic gymnastics teams are set to be disbanded and new coaches roped in to develop fresh talent.

These are some of the drastic measures set to be implemented when the powers-that-be meet on Dec 18 to check the rot – following the men’s and women’s artistic teams dismal showing at the recent SEA Games in Indonesia.

China’s former chief coach Gao Jian and instructors from Romania may be hired to nurture and produce a new crop of calibre gymnasts.

In Palembang, the lack of depth in the men’s and women’s teams stood out like a sore thumb as all of them failed to make an impact.

Malaysia had never before failed to win a gold medal in the event at the regional Games but, this time, the artistic gymnasts returned home with their pride bruised and image battered.

The men’s team were probably the biggest letdown. Despite undergoing several training stints in China over the past year, none justified the big bucks spent on them by the National Sports Council (NSC).

A slew of injuries to potential gymnasts also slowed their progress. But it is debatable whether the injuries were caused by the coaches pushing the gymnasts too hard or related to weight issues.

A year ago, the Malaysian Gymnastics Federation (MGF) had been on the verge of engaging Gao Jian, the man behind China’s golden gymnastics triumph at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, to oversee the national squad’s training. Unfortunately, the plan fell through due to financial constraints.

MGF secretary N. Shanmugarajah said yesterday that it was time to look at alternative ways to revive the artistic teams’ fortunes.

“Our exco meeting next week will look into ways to improve standards. We can’t go on doing the same thing as it obviously isn’t working. We have to come up with other ideas and submit our plans to the NSC,” he said.

“Gao Jian has a wealth of experience and is no longer with the China national team. We could certainly use his services. If we manage to hire him as our chief coach, he will be given a free hand to chart the course of the artistic teams.

“Romania has also informed us that it is prepared to provide coaches.”

Shanmugarajah said it was also time to review the status of the national gymnasts.

“Those without a future will have to go. There are plans to open up new training centres in different states. We will absorb new talents into the national squad,” he said.

“Our programmes will have to be geared towards preparing a solid team for the 2016 Olympic Games.”

The men’s team to the SEA Games comprised Mohd Irwan Miskob, Mohd Akmal Hakim, Mohd Azlan­shah Ismail, Lum Wan Foong, Hairi Zaid and Mohd Hamzahruddin Nordin.

The women were Farah Ann Hadi, Noor Hasleen Fatihin Hasnan, Nur Ily Ilyana Azmi and Tracie Ang. Of the four, Farah did well to win a silver medal despite being injured. But, overall, it was a disastrous outing.

Malaysian gymnastics has clearly lost its artistry.

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