ATHLETICS / MSSM CHAMPIONSHIPS: Future bright with new talent
HOPE: Total of 13 records broken with six from senior age-group
A NEW hope has arisen from the ashes of the scandals that have plagued Malaysian athletics after the emergence of several talented youngsters at the recent Malaysian Schools Athletic Championships in Kangar.
Last year in Ipoh, officials fretted when no records were broken in the Under-18 category though eight new marks were set in the Under-15 and Under-12 events.
This time, the records were spread all around as 13 were renewed or equalled at the Utama Stadium including six in the senior age-group.
Fittingly, record-breakers Iskandar Alwi of Johor and Perak's Noor Shahidatun Nadia Zuki were picked for the best sportsboy and sportsgirl awards respectively.
Iskandar soared to a new Asian schools record in the pole vault while Nadia, 16, set a new mark in the triple jump and matched the old one in the long jump.
Selangor's M. Shandyiani (girls' high jump), Nik Norzilawati Nik Wil of Kelantan (girls' 800m) and Kuala Lumpur's Elena Goh (girls' 5,000m walk) were the other Under-18 record setters to emerge as the leading hopes for the future.
There were also impressive performances in the lower age-groups including Under-12 shot putter Grace Wong of Sabah, Under-15 200m and 400m champion Cheah Yau Chung of Perak, double gold medalist R. Kirthana of Perak and high jumper Jonathan Tinggang of Sarawak.
Jonathan and Selangor's Azly Ghazali are two high jumpers to watch and with proper guidance, can follow in the path of senior Lee Hup Wei.
Some of these names will surely be deserving of inclusion in the National Sports Council's national back-up programme.
Sarawak's domination of the junior scene may be nearing an end despite retaining their overall title with a 15-gold haul, six fewer than in 2011.
Perak made a massive improvement, adding four more gold to total 13 as did Kuala Lumpur, who finished third with nine gold medals.
But there must be real concern in the sprints with no athlete truly capturing the imagination.
It is a discipline that has seen a gradual decline over the last 10 years given the Malaysian Athletic Union's (MAU) poor handling of development.
It is a pity that MAU president Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim was not around to watch the action unfold in his own backyard.
In fact, bar a few council members, few MAU executive committee members were present in a sign that their priorities may lie elsewhere.
The organisation of the meet also needs improvement with middle-distance athletes forced to run when the sun is at its hottest.
Alternating between extreme heat and thunderstorms, Kangar may not have been an ideal place for athletics in May to begin with.
The fact that someone forgot to fill the water pit for the steeplechase finals is another unbelievable oversight which should never have happened.