May our positive visions for 2021 go viral

Track cycling Azizulhasni Awang back in training. - Filepic

COVID-19. Quarantine. Lockdown.

These words were used countless times in the daily stories we had to churn out to fill the sports pages despite little sporting activities last year.

So, it’s good riddance to the year where Covid-19 stole the show and instead of the deserving athletes.

I’ve to admit that life will never be the same again. As we usher in the new year, athletes and sports administrators, like everybody else, who saw their careful planning all torn to shreds, will have to start from zero again.

They will be out to make up for the lost time to prepare for the Olympics and other tournaments that were deferred from last year and at the same time, hope for the virus to go away for good.

As the world of sports gets ready to kick back to life again, I have listed a few things that I would like to see taking place in the sporting landscape this 2021 in no particular order.

As a writer, I share the same hope with all athletes who are yearning for the smell of competitions again. The majority of athletes in the Malaysian sports eco system have gone a year without any competition – and that’s hard. I’m sure the athletes miss the excitement and the adrenaline rush just before getting into the competition arena. Training and sparring are just not the same. If the vaccine is rolled out worldwide over the next three months, I believe things will get better in the sporting landscape.

Another thing that I’m sure everyone wants is to celebrate an Olympics champion in our midst. The Olympics is the world’s biggest sporting show but we have been pretty much bystanders except for our shuttlers, divers and cyclists. It is time we join the likes of Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia in boasting home grown Olympics champions. This stage is not just about the show of the fittest but also who are toughest mentally. Hopefully, we don’t have to extend the agonising wait for a winner.

I hope for track cyclist Azizulhasni Awang to turn the tables on the Europeans in the Olympics keirin event. It’s the only major competition he has yet to win and I am sure he wants to cap his illustrious career with another Olympics medal. Azizul is already remembered for his exploits as the 2017 world champion and the first Olympics medal winner for his sport when he won the bronze in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

One of the humblest and nicest athletes I have known since he moved to the Melbourne training base while he was still a junior in 2007. I am sure he will fight until the last drop for the chance to be the eternal hero of Malaysian sports.

Malaysian badminton fans have been craving for another singles winner after Lee Chong Wei departed the scene nearly two years ago. We have gotten used to seeing Chong Wei making a title run so many times that it feels strange to see no Malaysian presence when it comes to the weekend play. Lee Zii Jia is the heir apparent at this moment and the 22-year-old has certainly been thrusted into the spotlight since he won the Taiwan Masters three years ago. Zii Jia used to be uncomfortable when he is compared to a talent like Chong Wei but he is slowly showing signs of maturity and if he can use the comparison to motivate himself, the potential for greatness is there. It’s my hope for Zii Jia to come of age on the world stage and give badminton fans something to cheer about.

I would like to see a repeat of the breathtaking 2020 MotoGP championship battle. What an incredible and fascinating premier class season we witnessed last year. Spaniard Marc Marquez, the most talented racer on two wheels in the modern era, failed to finish a race. There were nine different winners, five of them were brand new. Spaniard Joan Mir became the world champion but only scored one win for the year. And the runner-up Franco Morbidelli of Italy was on a bike that was nearly two years old. It’s boring if one rider wins it all the time!

We do not have to hear stories of players, coaches and staff being owed salaries by their teams in the M-League. The salary issue is not new in the M-League as it crops up every year. It certainly reflects badly on the Football Association of Malaysia and Malaysian Football League although it must be pointed out that they do work hard to improve the standard of the M-League. Most teams have settled salary arrears but some are still irresponsible. Let’s be a good paymaster.

To see more national sports associations, including the National Sports Council, embrace the idea of working together with the media and not see us as trouble makers or a nosy bunch of people. There have been times when the media found it hard to source for information or their request for access to certain athletes denied due to unnecessary red tape.

It’s worse when some of the officials prefer to be in the limelight. We are not the enemy. After all, we are in the same business of promoting sports.

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