Par Excel-lence


The Foundation for Malaysian Sporting Excellence (SportExcel), has turned 30. It has done an excellent job to unearth talents and produce world-class athletes. The former Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) president Tunku Tan Sri Imran Tuanku Ja’afar, who is the visionary leader behind the success of this junior development model, tells why it’s still going strong.

Q: Congratulations on SportExcel’s 30th anniversary. How did it all start?

A: The National Sports Associations (NSA) were not serious on junior development programme. They usually will organise one junior competition in a year because lack of fund. Without regular competitions for juniors, it’s hard to develop the athletes. I wanted competitions on a regular basis for juniors to improve. I spoke to a few like-minded people and we established the foundation in 1991.

The goal was to work together with the NSAs to host regular competitions. We started with golf, squash and bowling and eventually it grew and we have 13 sports now.

We needed RM25,000 to start the programme and sought the assistance of private companies to raise the money. Milo wanted a bigger role as they were keen in the development of juniors and eventually they became one of our major partners. We also partnered with the National Sports Council (NSC). We still have the same partners supporting this foundation. We’ve grown and our foundation is literally strong.

Q: What were the initial struggles and how did your team manage it?

It was changing the mindset at first, really. We needed the NSAs’ cooperation and an understanding from them on the importance of having regular junior circuits, keeping the data and generate interest among the juniors. We wanted the NSAs to know that we can keep it simple but still do a good job. Our administrative team is small, in fact, we have had only four executive directors over the last three decades. We didn’t need a big office or a big team, that would cost more and we wanted to keep it minimal so the juniors will benefit the most.

We kept everything simple, it was not organised like a big carnival. We got the T-shirts for the kids, and found volunteers. If the NSAs spent RM40,000 to host a event, we did it with half or less than that. Eventually, the model was accepted.

We have a good board of directors, including Datuk Dina Rizal, Datuk Marina Chin and a few others. They are creative and knowledgeable. In fact, sometimes, we give more ideas to the association than the other way around.

Q. Do you think it’s still relevant?

We were always thinking out of the box. Every year, there will be something new that we will introduce. We introduced an award scheme as an incentive for the juniors. We added more sports along the way. Instead of a few legs, we added more. We wanted what worked best for the juniors. In squash, we introduced playoffs as we did not want players to go back home after losing the first round. Every player needs a second chance. Instead of just keeping our juniors here, we came up with an idea of sending them abroad to compete with their peers from other countries. That’s when we introduced the AmBank-SportExcel International Junior Golf Championship. We made an agreement with all participating countries that each host will cover the cost of the visiting team – it really saved lots of money and just imagine the exposure our juniors got. This is an area where will continue to explore as we want all other sports under SportExcel to eventually have competitions abroad too.

Q: Have we done enough to unearth talents?

Players like Nicol David, Shalin Zulkifli and Gavin Green, to mention a few, were the pioneers from this programme. They benefited from it but it did not end with them. We continue to see more juniors, who have come through SportExcel doing well in the international stage. I believe if we continue to expand and add depth in this programme, we will achieve greater results... even producing more world-class athletes and Olympians. It’s also good to see parents playing a bigger role in junior programmes and seeing a bigger participation at the lower level... this is the right way to build the sports culture in our country.

Q: Tunku Imran, you are 73 this year, what keeps you and SportExcel going?

It’s the passion for the game really. It’s pointless to do something if you are dragging your feet into it. I still get excited... and there’s always something new to do and it’s satisfying to see positive results from something we started 30 years ago.




History of SportExcel

BACKGROUND

• Inaugurated on 19 April 1991

• Brainchild of Tunku Tan Sri Imran Tuanku Ja’afar and some prominent sportsmen in the 80’s – late Datuk Ho Koh Chye, late Col. (rtd) Dulip Singh, and few others.

• The longest serving board of directors are Tunku Imran (chairman) and Datuk Dina Rizal.

• The past executive directors are Dulip, Koh Chye, Teng Mui Ngee, and the current C. Sivanandan.

• Main goal to create a platform for junior competitions over a period of three to six months or longer.

• Major partners are National Sports Council and Milo (35% of the circuit budget – RM280k per year) and 30% raised by SportExcel.

• Annually, SportExcel raise RM480k. Those who contribute RM15,000 per year are Omesti, Ho Hup, IGB Berhad, PCCO Ltd, Antah, Milo, Hap Seng, Triterra, UMS, OIB, CIT, Boardroom Solutions (formerly Symphony Corporate House). Balance raised through fund-raising, golf, dinner events, etc.

• In 2020, Sime Darby Foundation joined as a partner with contribution of RM500,000 x 3 years for junior elite girls international exposure programme for swimming, BMX, squash and tennis.

• Currently, sports organised are golf, bowling, squash, tennis, cricket, shooting, gymnastics (artistic and rhythmic), swimming, cycling (road, track until 2016), BMX (since 2017), athletics and sepak takraw.



MILESTONES

General

• Outstanding sportsmen and sportswomen – Datuk Nicol David, Ong Beng Hee (squash); Shalin Zulkifli, Esther Cheah (bowling); Sam Chong (snooker), Gavin Green, Kelly Tan (golf), M. Kumaresan (cycling), Nur Herman Majid (athletics), Jeffrey Ong (swimming) and many more.

• Recipient of the IOC Sport and Youth Development Award (12 December 2008).

Golf

• Started in 1992. From a local junior circuit, it became a premier junior elite and now international junior event.

• The annual AmBank Group-SportExcel International Junior Golf Championship, since 2006 is the main highlight.

• In 2015, a MoU was signed between Hills Golf Academy Gold Coast Australia with SportExcel, long and short-term scholarships awarded.

• Has similar MoU since 2015 with India, China, Taiwan, Australia, Thailand, Indonesia, Korea, Japan and Singapore (since 2021).

• Another MoU was signed with Hainan Golf Association in 2019.

• In 2019, a record was created when 19 junior golfers received partial or full scholarships from US colleges.

• Ashley Lau, who was a winner at the AmBank Group-SportExcel International Junior Golf Championship, gained one-year scholarships at the Hills Golf Academy, which was then extended by another year.

• Audrey Tan, Erwin Chang, Allycia Gan, Liyana Durisic, Nur Shazan Amalia are among the top juniors in US colleges.

Squash

• Squash juniors have also been awarded scholarships to study at US colleges and one of the latest is national No. 2 S. Sivasangari at Cornell University.

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