KUALA LUMPUR: The National Sports Institute (NSI) are confident they can continue to produce more Malaysian world champions.
Malaysian sports hit an all-time high last year with eight world champions being crowned – track cyclist Azizulhasni Awang, diver Cheong Jun Hoong, wushu exponent Wong Weng Son and para athletes Ziyad Zolkefli and Abdul Latif Romly, bodybuilder Syarul Azman Mike Mahen and the women’s bowling sextet Shalin Zulkifli, Sin Li Jane, Siti Safiyah Amirah Abdul Rahman, Esther Cheah, Syaidatul Afifah Badrul Hamidi and Natasha Roslan.
Of the eight, only Syarul Azman is not under the NSI-run Podium Programme, designed to give athletes the cutting edge through sports science.
And a confident NSI chairman Datuk Seri Azim Zabidi said things can only get better after showing state-of-the-art facilities to media personnel during a get-together session with the Sportswriters Association of Malaysia (SAM) yesterday.
The media entourage, headed by SAM president Ahmad Khawari Isa, were shown around the NSI premise which is made up of seven main sections at the KL Sports City in Bukit Jalil during the hour-long visit.
The seven departments comprise Exercise Physiology, Jungle Gym, Juz Reward Station (post workout health drinks), Sports Massage Centre, Altitude and Environmental Chamber, Sports Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine and Radiology.
Azim said Malaysia boasts “the most sophisticated” sports institution in South-East Asia.
“With the facilities that NSI have to offer, I don’t see why we can’t produce more champions than we used to,” said Azim.
“Some countries do not have the technologies we possess, they can only feel envy.
“While we can’t compare ourselves to the likes of Japan and South Korea, we are definitely the most sophisticated sports institution in this region.
“And we’re going to review from time to time and continue to invest in necessary additions to further enhance what we have at the moment. Surely, we can only get better.”
In other developments, Azim gave an assurance that NSI have no intention to limit the media’s access to the athletes.
There have been claims by journalists of having trouble to speak to athletes and coaches, especially those under the Podium Programme, and were asked to get permission from the NSI before they are allowed to so.
But Azim refuted the allegations, explaining that the NSI merely want to regulate it.
“We will not stop the media from interviewing the athletes, it’s just that we hope you can respect the athletes’ tight schedules and give them the space they need,” said Azim.
“Those who are preparing for the Commonwealth Games, especially, have only three months to prepare.
“So for the national sports associations, coaches and athletes, their main agenda is to prepare as well as they can.”