Technical director Ballard plans to change Malaysian athletics culture

KUALA LUMPUR: The country's coaching structure will be reviewed after Malaysia's locally trained track and field athletes did not perform to expectations at the recent Hangzhou Asian Games.

Of the 19 Malaysian athletes who competed in the Asiad, only United States-based Azeem Fahmi and Shereen Samson Vallabouy bagged bronze in the 100m and 400m respectively.

The women's 4x100m team also won bronze.

None of the locally trained athletes were able to do a personal best or a season best in Hangzhou.

Malaysian Athletics Federation (MAF) technical director John Ballard said that everything is under review.

"I will be working with all the current coaches and also talking to foreign coaches who can help us to improve the standard of athletes.

"We need to change the training culture, change the culture of how we present ourselves in training and how we put ourselves together when we go for major competitions.

"I also strongly believe that we need to do really well here in our nation first before we compete overseas.

"We also need to talk to athletes to know why they did not perform in the Asian Games. I had a long chat with discus thrower Irfan (Shamsuddin) to know what we can do to help him improve his throw. Or whether there's something that is bothering him during his event in the Asian Games.

"However, I cannot reveal what those things are," said the Australian.

"If the athletes have a problem, let me resolve it. I will help implement the training strategies for them."

He said one area that they need to improve is the synergy between National Sports Institute, coaches and the athletes.

"Appreciate what sports science can contribute to athletes. I am here to introduce a more sports science approach in how athletes can compete in major events and do well.

"You must understand that only 25 per cent of athletes of the whole Asian Games did their season best or personal best.

"You must understand that not everybody who goes to the Asian Games is always going to do a season's best performance.

"However, in the future I want to see consistency from athletes and also want them to perform at least their top three performances of the year. That is the minimum standard I would like to see from the athletes in competitions.

"I will be implementing strategies in the next 12 months and hopefully in the next three to four years, as things don't happen overnight.

"I'm also looking for inspirational lead and professional coaches that would work with current coaches to lift the standard of athletics.

"The professional coaches must educate and give the current coaches the experience of the highest level," said Ballard.

Meanwhile, MAF received a RM5 million sponsorship (for 2023- 2025) today for athletics programmes and grassroots initiatives from Cahya Mata Sarawak Berhad.

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