RTG decision on Pandelela, Dhabitah expected this month, says Yeoh

KUALA LUMPUR: National divers Pandelela Rinong and Nur Dhabitah Sabri's status in the Road to Gold (RTG) programme will likely be known by the end of this month.

Youth and Sports Minister Hannah Yeoh admitted that she was disappointed not to see the duo clinching qualification for the Paris Olympics at the Doha World Aquatics Championships last week but made it clear that the RTG committee will decide their fate.

She disclosed that the RTG committee were expected to hold a meeting later this month to discuss athletes' selection in the programme for the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.

"I know many want to ask about diving, but we will have to wait for a decision during the RTG meeting," said Yeoh today.

"Of course, I feel disappointed, but I want to hear the explanation of the national sports association (Malaysia Aquatics) first.

"They have their own coaches, technical director and so on. The National Sports Council (NSC) are currently making arrangements to meet with them."

Yeoh stressed that it was important to get feedback from stakeholders before making any decisions.

"Sports is performance-based, and we all know that athletes will face ups and downs in their career," said Yeoh.

"The challenge is to see how we can increase or at least continue supporting these athletes when they fail. It is not easy to make a decision because we have, in the past, seen athletes fall but then rise again."

Timesport believes it is possible that Pandelela, 31, and Dhabitah, 25, could be retained in the RTG programme if they both decide to continue competing until LA2028.

Yeoh added that the selection criteria for RTG could be changed for athletes who are preparing for LA2028. Squash will be making its debut at LA2028 and Malaysia is eying a medal in the sport.

"Currently, the selection criteria for RTG (Paris Olympics) is athletes must be ranked within the top10 in the world or they are medallists from previous editions of the Olympics," said Yeoh.

"But for LA2028, we might consider other criteria. We will have to wait for the meeting."

RTG is an elite athlete preparation programme intended to provide cream-of-the-crop athletes the additional support they need to challenge for gold in Paris, LA2028 and other major international competitions.

In addition to extra sport science support, competition exposure and coaching, athletes under RTG also receive an additional allowance of RM3,000 a month.

Yeoh was speaking after attending the sponsorship announcement event for national golfer Ervin Chang and CIMB Group Holdings Bhd in Kuala Lumpur today.

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