Our nation’s medal possibilities are greater than before at this Olympics
THE 30th edition of the Summer Olympic Games, which starts in full swing today, London time, is pregnant with meaning not only for expectant mother Nur Suryani Mohamed Taibi. For the national shooter, who is, at best, a long shot for a podium finish in the 10-metre air-rifle event, as she will be up against the top guns in the field, getting the chance to compete is an achievement in itself and a dream of a lifetime, regardless of whether she wins a medal. But for the country, sporting history could be in the making on the playing fields of London as there are "genuine medal chances in badminton, archery, diving and cycling", says Tunku Imran Tuanku Ja'afar, president of the Olympic Council of Malaysia. This rosy view is shared by Datuk Zolkples Embong, director-general of the National Sports Council as well as by this daily's man in London, Vijesh Rai. As all of the country's medal tally of four have come from badminton and no Malaysian has won gold, history will certainly be made if the great expectations are met.
The fact that hopes are high and the medal possibilities greater than before gives an idea how times have changed over the last 20 years. This is not to suggest that the illustrious roll of Malaysian athletes ever turned up at the Olympics just to make up the numbers. But it is fair to say that there was no pressure on them to come home with a medal. They were expected to simply do their best, rather than be the best in the world's biggest sporting extravaganza. There was certainly no dishonour in returning empty-handed when it was an honour just to make the cut and take part, and making it past the first rounds, a feat to be feted. The turnaround in expectations came, of course, with the medal breakthrough in Barcelona 1992 when the Sidek brothers, Jalani and Razif, won a bronze in the men's badminton doubles, followed by another bronze and a maiden silver in Atlanta four years later.
But while this three-medal haul has whetted the appetite for more, as did the 12-year barren spell after 1996 and the sole silver medal at Beijing 2008 that broke it, and there seems to be a reasonable chance to add to the tally in London, there is also a need to temper this with a dose of reality. Getting an Olympic medal is always a tough act. What we should do is to cheer them on and wish them the best of luck.