RIGHT CHOICE: Wild cards must be given to athletes being groomed for the future
WHEN chef-de-mission Tun Ahmad Sarji Abdul Hamid submits his report on the London Olympics, there will be one recommendation which is unlikely to go down well with national sports associations.
Having witnessed the highs and lows of Malaysia at the Olympics since July 27, Ahmad Sarji will recommend that wild cards to the Games must be awarded to athletes being groomed for the future.
Ahmad Sarji was at the Olympic Stadium on Sunday when high jumper Lee Hup Wei and 400m hurdler Noraseela Khalid competed and, at the very least, he was left unimpressed.
"I was sitting beside Tan Sri Jega (M. Jegathesan -- former athlete and Olympic Council of Malaysia deputy president) watching Noraseela and Hup Wei compete and we both agreed that associations should use the wild cards given to them wisely," said Ahmad Sarji.
Some would say, based on the performances of Malaysia's wild cards in London -- swimmer Khoo Cai Lin was also there as a wild card -- that OCM should stop this practice once and for all.
Hup Wei, who has a personal best of 2.27m, managed only 2.16m while Noraseela clocked 1.00:16s in the 400m hurdles, a far cry from her national record of 56.02s. Cai Lin clocked 8:51.18s in the 800m freestyle against her national record of 8:45.36s.
Ahmad Sarji, however, said wild cards were good as long as associations made the right choices.
"There is no point sending an athlete who is almost at the end of his or her career to compete in the Olympics on a wild card. They should qualify on merit or not come at all. However, I will recommend that for future Games, associations who receive wild cards should utilise them for athletes being groomed for the next Olympics as the experience will be valuable.
"I am, however, only the chef-de-mission and all I can do is make a recommendation and hope that it is accepted in good faith."
Hup Wei and Noraseela's inclusion in the Games resulted in controversy as some athletes felt slighted that they had been overlooked despite performing better this year and based on what the two dished out in London, they had a case.
Ahmad Sarji agrees but the question is will the Malaysian Athletics Union and other associations learn from this lesson and plan better for the future?