KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia must expand their talent pool at the grassroots level if they want to churn out more champions in the sport, according to former national sprint champion Tan Sri Dr M. Jegathesan.
Jegathesan, who was the fastest man in Asia in his prime, said there had been less emphasis placed on sports in school in recent years and this had subsequently affected the number of talents produced.
"The excellence in any sport comes through the pyramid principle, which means we must have a very broad base (grassroots talent pool).
"Children need the opportunity to play sports so that their talent can be identified at a young age. If they are not given the opportunity, we may not get to see their talents.
"Some of us are very good at badminton or tennis while others may be a great swimmer.
"Once talents are identified, there must be a system where they can be further developed through coaching and support and be allowed to achieve success.
"I believe support for sports has lessened over the years. It is possible that parents and schools are paying more attention to their academic," said Jegathesan, who was among seven Malaysian sporting figures honoured at the Milo signing event yesterday.
Milo signed a new sponsorship agreement with Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) and were also presented the 'Longest Corporate Partner for Olympic Movement' award by the Malaysia Book of Records.
The iconic chocolate beverage brand have partnered with OCM on an annual basis since the 1950s, providing financial support for the national contingent to compete in various multisport events including the Olympics.
The agreement sees the partnership continuing until 2028, with Milo providing financial support and in-kind contributions for the national contingent.
Also at the function were sporting figures Annie Choong (athletics), Datuk Soh Chin Aun (football), Nurul Huda Abdullah (swimming), Datuk Rashid Sidek (badminton), Ng Shu Wai (gymnastics) and Pandelela Rinong (diving).
Jegathesan said Milo is a brand synonymous with Malaysian sports.
"Milo is one of the ones (sponsors) who came in early. They have always been associated with physical and sporting activities in Malaysia."