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Jaya '98 model for success

While the end of Malaysia's dominance in the high jump event at the recently concluded Hanoi Sea Games caught many by surprise, it wasn't the case for former champion Loo Kum Zee.

Although saddened by the outcome, the 47-year-old said Malaysia's tame overall performance in Hanoi did not surprise him at all.

In the high jump, Thailand's Kobsit Sittichai recorded 2.21m to edge Nauraj Singh Randhawa (2.18m) for the gold to end Malaysia's 17-year dominance in the event.

Kum Zee, a five-time Sea Games champion, believes sports officials should introduce an effective programme similar to the successful Jaya '98 initiative to revive Malaysia's fortunes in multi-sport events.

Introduced in 1993, the Jaya '98, headed by Datuk Mazlan Ahmad (former National Sports Council director general), steered Malaysia to fourth overall in the 1998 Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games after winning 10 gold medals.

"I believe it is the time to introduce a programme similar to Jaya '98. Of course, some elements have to be improvised to meet the demands of modern sports.

"I was part of this successful and world-class programme. I was at the peak of my career and broke many records at that time.

"It was a very structured training programme with a precise target.

"It had good funding and support from the government without interference of any sort.

"The NSC were the sole body running the programme, and they brought in experts to help the athletes.

"Everything was spelt out clearly to the athletes. We understood and delivered medals for the country," said Kum Zee.

He said: "It is really sad to see how low (Malaysian) sports have become. The contingent were already celebrating when they met the 'lowly' 36-gold target in Hanoi.

"When I was an athlete, Malaysia used to be among the top three in the Sea Games without fail. It was always between us, Thailand and Indonesia.

"It is so shameful that we are proud of our sixth placing and just finishing above minnows like Cambodia and Laos," said the Olympian and 1998 Bangkok Asian Games bronze medallist.

Malaysia finished sixth overall with 39 gold, 45 silver and 90 bronze for a total of 174 medals. Vietnam (205-125-116), Thailand (92-103-136), Indonesia (69-91-81), Philippines (52-70-105) and Singapore (47-46-73) finished above Malaysia.

"It all boils down to commitment. Did our athletes travel to Hanoi to win? I did not see the desire in most of these athletes.

"As for athletics, we were always the main contributor of medals for the contingent in the past.

"We would never return with fewer than 10 gold. For the record, I have retired about 20 years ago.

"Instead of moving forward, we are going backwards.

"We have spent a lot of money to develop our athletes with the assistance of cutting-edge technology, research and development and sports science, yet we are not improving."

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