Selection of athletes has to be fair and, above all, on merit

A fighter: Skateboarder Fatin Syahirah Roszizi has promised to return stronger. — Reuters

A fighter: Skateboarder Fatin Syahirah Roszizi has promised to return stronger. — Reuters

THE selection of athletes for multi-sport Games has always been a debatable topic in Malaysia.

Was the selection done fairly? Was the selection even done?

Did he or she get in because of affiliation with someone in the selection committee? Was it a directive from a top officer? Or was it done based on one’s race, colour and not on merit alone?

That’s why I was rather pleased when the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) president Datuk Seri Norza Zakaria made a strong stand after the Asian Games to raise the standard of the selection criteria for Category B athletes for major Games.

Norza and many of us must have watched the 16-year-old Malaysian skateboarder Fatin Syahirah Roszizi at the recent Asiad. She fell a couple of times, earned low scores and immediately became the topic of ridicule on social media.

Many came to her rescue with comforting and encouraging words. I sympathise with her too.

But did she come through a stringent selection process? Who put her up for it? Was she challenged by other young talents in the country?

The Asian Games is the second biggest sports event after the Olympic Games – and we should, at least, try to live up to that standard.

The selectors must be fair to Fatin too. We should not give athletes false hope. If she or he is not good enough, we should tell them so.

Fatin, fortunately, is a positive person and has promised to come out of the debacle stronger.

Last week, a few highlighted their grouses to StarSport over the selection done by one of the Malaysian sports associations for an Olympic qualifying tournament.

It seemed the selection rules allow their president to choose two athletes of his choice and he chose someone, who was not even in the top 100 standing. And it is alleged that the person selected has a blood tie to the selector.

Why can’t we be transparent and name the best for the tournament?

If the association is sincere in wanting the best to represent the nation, they should scrap rules that do not make sense.

Selection issues are not a problem at the elite level only, but even more dangerously at the lower level too. However, more often than not, it gets swept under the carpet.

StarSport received an e-mail from a reader in Penang, screaming for attention.

He claimed his 15-year-old son was overlooked for the upcoming Malaysia Games (Sukma) shooting competition in Perak by their coach.

He felt his son was victimised although he had good results to stake his claim, but sadly, nothing could be done despite efforts to fight for justice.

Athletes aside, the selection of coaches has its own dynamics too.

A badminton coach from Melaka says the selection of coaches should be based on merit.

“The management picks a coach who is their friend. This coach does not do his job and gets away with it. This causes slow development in states,” he said.

“And the national body wonder why new talents are not coming through from some of the states?”

I can go on and on with many cases of biased selections, unfair decisions and vague rules.

It has been there for many years, spoken quietly behind the scenes, and most of the time, ignored as no one wants to step on the toes of the decision-makers, usually high-ranked officers.

All these have to stop.

We can go on doing post-mortem after post-mortem on why we failed at the Olympic Games, Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and world championships but we’ll not go anywhere if we are not honest with ourselves.

Be fair, be sincere. Select athletes on merit from the junior level – and we’ll see new stars reaching for the skies.