Dismal performance a wake-up call for our athletes

LETTERS: I followed the Asian Athletics Championship (AAC) in Bangkok from July 12 to 16. Luckily for Malaysia, discus thrower Irfan Shamsuddin won a bronze medal.

Irfan won a silver at the New Delhi AAC in 2017.

We had pinned our hopes on sprinter Azeem Fahmi, who is based at Auburn University in Alabama, the United States, training under coach Ken Harnden, who was in Bangkok with Azeem.

Luckily, Irfan saved the blushes of our 30-member track and field contingent.

The Malaysia Athletics Federation had invested a sizeable amount in the team, hoping for the athletes to win at least a few bronzes to justify the investment.

Azeem finished fifth in the finals. He probably had been under too much pressure.

His coach, however, would have gathered information about the competition, which will be useful for the Asian Games in September.

The MAF and athletics fans missed Shereen Samson Vallabouy, who sat out the AAC to prepare for the Asian Games.

Shereen could have won a medal in the women's 400m.

It's good that Olympic Council of Malaysia president Tan Sri Norza Zakaria and the MAF are choosing quality over quantity.

At the AAC, many saw India's resurgence.

India has invested money and resources to become a sporting superpower, more so after Neeraj Chopra's javelin gold medal feat at the Tokyo Olympics.

Additionally, support from the government through an increased budget has also been a factor.

This would entail an investment in grassroots development programmes; identifying talent in villages, districts and schools; developing more coaches and talent spotters; and having online coaching courses for parents, teachers and sports enthusiasts to participate in.

The private sector also plays an important role in this ecosystem.

India, at the AAC, was placed third in the medal tally.

Even Singapore outshone us, with Veronica Shanti Pereira winning two gold medals in the 100m and 200m.

The Philippines won two gold medals, Thailand one gold through their men's 4x100m, and Vietnam in the women's 4x400m.

We had one miserable bronze medal despite having the best training facilities, sports science experts and coaches.

We appear to lack the desire to train hard.

Hopefully, MAF coaching and selection committee chairman Datuk Mark Ling's drive and passion, with a new coaching director (former Australian track and field athlete Robert Ballard) on board, can bring better results for our track and field athletes.


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

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