LETTERS: THE general feeling is results could have been better for most sports of the Malaysian contingent participating in the 22nd Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, the United Kingdom.
In the Brisbane Games in 2018, our athletes brought home seven gold, five silver, and 12 bronze medals while in this edition they were marginally better with a 7-8-8 tally.
We expect a better haul as current athletes are given better attire, state of the art equipment, high-class accommodation, daily allowances and cash incentives when they win medals.
During the heydays and the golden era of our sports from the 1960s to 1980s, as sports fans we never heard of athletes depending on sports sciences, foreign coaches, overseas friendlies or stints or free perks, and yet they delivered the goods on the world stage.
The sole satisfaction they derived by winning the gold medals, was to stand proudly on the pódium listening to our national anthem being played, while our national flag was being raised.
As an avid sports fan for the past 30 years, I feel sad when I watched youngsters from all over the British Commonwealth excel in aquatics, lawn bowls, netball, hockey and athletics for the past two weeks on television, where Australia, England, Canada, India, New Zealand and Nigeria performed far better than us.
Nevertheless, there are athletes we can be proud of. The two Ngs shone, namely Ng Joe Ee who won two gold medals in rhythmic gymnastics and badminton's Ng Tze Yong who won a gold in the team event and a men's singles silver medal.
In both sports, many countries had used naturalised athletes from the former Soviet republics and China.
Despite being their maiden outing in this edition of the Games, the two showed us that although they were initially down but they were never out as they bounced back to surprise everybody with their outstanding performance.
The spirited Joe Ee was deprived of her two Russian coaches who were barred from the Games, while Tze Yong was a last-minute replacement for Lee Zii Jia.
In addition, the "TnT combo" namely Tan Koong Le (Pearly) and M. Thinaah gave us a gutsy display in the women's doubles final to clinch our seventh gold medal, to make badminton our best top medal contributor in Birmingham.
I believe our athletes can perform better if the Education Ministry, sports associations and parents work hand in hand.
The Education Ministry through Physical and Health Education (PHE) teachers in schools, should carry out talent identification from Year One itself to channel them into sports according to their ability, physique and interest like the more successful countries like Australia, England, Canada and Jamaica.
The sole focus of the sports associations should be to assist teachers at district, state and national levels by providing them with the necessary coaches and officials who are competent and self-motivated, who in turn can instil positive values and strong mental endurance in athletes.
Parents should encourage their children to participate actively in sports if the education system can fix the hours of study in schools and allocate three hours for sports practices thrice a week.
Finally, selection of athletes must be solely based on merit and never by race, religion or favouritism by all sports associations.
Seremban, Negri Sembilan
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the New Straits Times