MALAYSIA Tanah Tumpah Darahku


Friday, May 20, 2022

Can Malaysian athletics get any worse?


Malaysian athletics in one word: Woeful.

In track events, it’s all doom, gloom – and a smack from regional rivals who are booming in athletics.

At the Hanoi SEA Games, Malaysian track athletes failed to win a solo gold medal, a repeat of the disappointing outing at the Singapore edition in 2015.

Field athletes delivered the five gold medals that Malaysia won in athletics, three by men and two by women.

Now all that’s left is the futile allocation of blame over athletics being in a deplorable state.

The obvious target would be the Malaysia Athletics Federation (MAF) whose dreadful neglect of the sport has blown the legacy of the country’s track domination at the regional games.

They failed to help enough talented athletes reach their potential and were mere bystanders as the talent pool significantly shrunk over the years.

Their disregard for coaching development and snub of some well-regarded homegrown coaches have ruined the prowess of Malaysia in track events in which they once led the way.

Coach and athlete development structures barely exist now and have suffered serious decline under the current MAF regime.

The rot was illuminated at the Hanoi SEA Games where Malaysia, once the regional powerhouse in 400m, did not have an athlete in men’s and women’s events because they did not make the Games’ qualifying mark.

We were also missing from the men’s and women’s 4x400m and 4x400m medley relays.

In middle and long distance events, Malaysia had only one athlete each in the men’s and women’s 800m, with Savinder Kaur bringing home the bronze.

Watching our athletes struggle at Hanoi made it almost impossible for people to be athletics fans. To see Muhammad Azeem Fahmi false start in the100m heats, and then for favourite Nauraj Singh Randhawa to finish second best in the high jump was to witness a layer of setbacks on top of other troubling omens.

Is anyone utterly shocked about the scale of the problem?

Will the national sports council take a more interventionist approach and conduct a wide-ranging performance strategy review into what MAF must do to improve?

The crisis captures what we have heard strongly from across the sport that there is a need for change in MAF and its leadership should be held accountable for the embarrassment it has caused.

MAF will certainly rejoice that they have met the five gold medal target at Hanoi and offer the excuse of Covid-19 pandemic restrictions, but the retort should be that there is a lack of trust in them among external stakeholders and the athletics community.

We cringe when we see the scars on Malaysian athletics compared to Hanoi SEA Games champions in the sport, Vietnam, and second-placed Thailand, whose rise is one of grit and savvy.

They have a strong club system, supported financially by private corporations and individual sponsors. We once had the same, now none.

They have comprehensive grassroots programmes. MAF claims they have similar projects too. They don’t have one that matters.

We have former national and state athletes doing athletics development on their own accord. They are struggling to raise funds to further their programmes.

Vietnam and Thailand have a pool of talent they are developing for the international stage within three years and are sent for frequent training and competitions in Europe. Here, officials shamelessly vie for trips overseas at the expense of athletes and their coaches.

For too long, questions have been raised over the value in the substantial funding of NSC for athletics and by extension the limited quality of the athletes and coaches. When are we seriously going to invest in development programmes and get proper coaches to train athletes to win medals regularly, at least, at Asian level?

Failures come down to lack of leadership and problems will continue until there is true leadership. - FMT

The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of MMKtT.

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