PUTRAJAYA: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak was the then Youth and Sports Minister when Malaysia hosted the 1989 SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur. Then, Malaysia finished overall runners-up with 67 gold medals.
Now, he has called on the national athletes competing in the KL SEA Games from Aug 19-30 to deliver the best gift for the nation’s 60th year of independence by winning the overall title.
Malaysia have won the overall title only once – when they last hosted the Games in 2001.
Malaysia bagged 111 gold medals at that time and are now targeting the same total and be crowned overall champions for the second time on Aug 30.
Najib had the athletes, who were gathered for the flag handing over ceremony here yesterday, on their feet when he gave a rousing speech – saying 30 million Malaysians will be behind them all the way.
“All of you have prepared for this moment and made sacrifices along the way.
“We have improved on the existing facilities and they are now of world-class standards.
“I want all of you to strive to achieve your best results in the SEA Games.
“Nothing beats the feeling of standing on top of the podium and receiving the gold medal,” said Najib.
He reminded the athletes that the SEA Games held a special place in his heart.
“We hosted the 1989 SEA Games and achieved our best result at that time – winning a total of 200 medals.
“I was the Youth and Sports Minister at that time and our performance in that Games became the benchmark for future multi-Games sporting events.
“For this SEA Games, we have 873 athletes participating and this is the biggest number in history.
“We want to be remembered as not just the best hosts but we also want to become the overall champions this time,” said Najib, who later handed the Malaysian flag to chef de mission Datuk Marina Chin.
Three reigning world champions – track cyclist Azizulhasni Awang, woman diver Cheong Jun Hoong and silat exponent Mohd Al-Jufferi Jamari – will be the Malaysian flag bearers for the SEA Games.
Najib also handed the Malaysian flag for the Asean Para Games from Sept 17-23 to chef de mission Datuk R. Subramaniam yesterday.
All three Rio Paralympics gold medallists from athletics – Ziyad Zolkefli, Abdul Latif Romly and Mohd Ridzuan Puzi – will be the flag bearers for the Malaysian contingent at the Asean Para Games.