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Malaysia fall behind SEA rivals in Olympic sports


A big worry: Chef-de-mission Datuk Seri Azim Zabidi speaking at a press conference at the Embassy of Malaysia in Jakarta yesterday.

A big worry: Chef-de-mission Datuk Seri Azim Zabidi speaking at a press conference at the Embassy of Malaysia in Jakarta yesterday.

IT’S not good enough.

The Asian Games in Indonesia gave Malaysia a hard reality check – just a year after the euphoria of Malaysians celebrating the runaway overall champions’ success at the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games.

Malaysia met their seven-gold medal target but trying to end a long wait for the nation’s first Olympic gold medal in Tokyo in 2020 will be a tall order – if the performances of athletes in Olympic sports are anything to go by.

The contingent finished with a total of 36 medals (7-13-16) – three more than in Incheon four years ago (5-14-14).

But the sad truth is that Malaysia only managed to produce one gold medal winner in an Olympic event at this Asian Games – through track cyclist Azizulhasni Awang, who won the sprint event.

The rest of the Malaysian medallists are from non-Olympic sports.

Squash continued to deliver through Nicol David in the women’s individual singles but she will not be around for the next Asiad and hopes are on silver medallists S. Sivasangari to continue the legacy.

The men’s squash team led by Mohd Nafiizwan Adnan came from nowhere to create a remarkable upset over top seeds Hong Kong to win an unexpected gold.

Bowling also did not disappoint with golden efforts from Rafiq Ismail who delivered a first-ever men’s Masters gold not long after the women’s trio of Esther Cheah, Siti Safiyah Amirah and Syaidatul Afifah Badrul Hamidi earned the first gold for the contingent.

Sepak takraw also ended a 24-year drought by winning the men’s regu event.

Sailing contributed one through Fauzi Kaman Shah in the 4.7 Laser Open class but the event is, unfortunately, not contested at the Olympics.

Malaysia showed their SEA Games overall champions’ tag meant nothing as they lagged behind their South-East Asian rivals Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore and even the Philippines in Olympic events.

Indonesia roared to their best-ever finish at the Asian Games finishing fourth overall (31-24-43) – with eight golds from Olympic sports such as badminton (2), sports climbing, rowing (1), mountain bike (2), weightlifting (1), tennis (1) and karate (1).

Thailand were the second best country from the SEA region this time with 11-16-46 and produced Olympic winners in cycling (1), shooting (1) and taekwondo (2).

Singapore, who finished with 4-4-14, can count on reigning Olympic swimming champion Joseph Schooling and the sailing duo of Kimberly Lim-Cecilia Low, to be strong prospects at the Tokyo Olympics.

Schooling came out tops in the 50m and 100m butterfly races and was later joined by Kimberly-Cecilia, who led from day one to win the women’s 49er Skiff FX class.

Vietnam produced winners in Olympic sports – rowing and long jump (athletics) – and even the Philippines did better than Malaysia by winning all their four gold medals in Olympic events – women’s weightlifting, golf and skateboard.

For Malaysia, badminton and shooting were the biggest flops. Diving did their part to deliver medals but China continued to be their Achilles heel.

Cycling and badminton remain the best sports where Malaysia can possibly hope to end the gold-medal wait at the Olympics – but the associations must stop relying on old hands and focus on young stars.

Podium Programme athletes must work harder and peak at the right time. Officials should put more focus on athletes than worrying about their own positions in the associations.

Unless drastic actions are taken, the hope for an Olympic gold medal may continue to be a pipe dream for Malaysians.

Asian Games 2018

   

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