Seven is just not enough for Malaysia

It's high time Malaysian athletes aim higher at international competitions.

GLASGOW: There is an old western movie titled “The Magnificent Seven” starring Yul Bryner, Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson.

It was a super hit back in the 1960s.

Well, as far as Malaysian sport is concerned, it won’t be magnificent at all if our athletes were to return home from the 20th edition of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow with just seven gold medals.

Yes, that is the lowly target set for our athletes for the Games, which will begin with the opening ceremony at Celtic Park on Wednesday.

On this day, Malaysia’s 179 athletes will proudly parade in their new and fashionable uniform, created by award-winning designer Melinda Looi, for the first time during the colourful ceremony.

The real action will only start on Thursday, with Malaysian athletes taking part in 15 of the 17 sports contested in three cities – Glasgow, Edinburgh and Carnoustie.

Malaysia are looking at winning only seven golds – five fewer than at the New Delhi Commonwealth Games in 2010.

Cycling and weightlifting are being touted to deliver the country’s first gold medals on Thursday.

In cycling, the gold could come from either the men’s sprint team, led by Azizulhasni Awang, or flag bearer Fatehah Mustapa in the women’s 500m time trial.

Mohd Faisal Baharom could deliver the golden glitter in the men’s 56kg category in weightlifting.

The other sports expected to deliver gold are badminton, squash, lawn bowls, diving and shooting.

Frankly, Malaysian athletes can – and should – go beyond seventh heaven.

The country, already in a sombre mood following the horrific bombing of a Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine, which claimed 298 innocent lives, could do with some good news.

So, some extraordinary performances by the athletes in Glasgow could put a smile on the faces of all Malaysians.

After all, sports has the power to unite the people of Malaysia and lift the spirits of every single Malaysian.

In short, sports has the ability to provide that feel-good factor.

Our athletes must also remember that millions of ringgit have been spent to prepare them for this Friendly Games, as it is sometimes dubbed.

And it is time they justify the huge financial outlay.

For example, the boxers were based in the Philippines before arriving in Glasgow; the divers and paddlers were in China; the gymnasts in Russia; the weightlifters in Indonesia; and the lawn bowlers were in Scotland two weeks prior to the start of the Games.

It’s a pity that Malaysia’s two best gold medal chances had been snatched away following the withdrawals of defending champions Lee Chong Wei (men’s singles badminton) and Nur Ayuni Farhana Abdul Halim (10m air rifle shooting) even before the Games began.

Chong Wei is out with an injury while Ayuni pulled out because her full-suit jacket got lost in transit.

But let’s not dwell on the negatives.

With so much emphasis given to sports in Malaysia, the Commonwealth Games is no longer a place for exposure but a platform for one to set personal bests, new records and win medals.

Malaysia have never won more than 12 gold medals at the Games – so that should be the target.

If the athletes can do that, then perhaps we can laud them as “The Magnificent Malaysians”.

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