PETALING JAYA: Having to skip two championships has thrown the spanner in the works for coach Paul Birmingham Thomas in his preparation of the swimmers for the Laos SEA Games in December.
The Youth and Sports Ministry has cancelled the participation of the 109-member strong Malaysian contingent from the Asian Youth Games this week following a directive from the Education Ministry to bar teachers and students from taking part in overseas competitions because of the A (H1N1) flu outbreak.
Twelve swimmers were A qualifiers for the inaugural Games and they were supposed to leave for Singapore on Monday for the Games.
They were Adam Lim, James Chen, Eric Chang, Ian James Barr (pic), Lau Zheng Fong, Kevin Lim, Heidi Loo, Christina Loh, Lai Wei Li, Hii Siew Siew, Erika Kong and Cheng Karmen.
The withdrawal of the participation in the championships has also affected four other swimmers — Kevin Yeap, Melvin Chua, Leung Chii Lin and Chui Lai Kwan. They were among the Malaysian contingent for the World University Games, which begin today in Belgrade.
And Thomas is frustrated over what has transpired.
“We have to skip two championships and it makes it harder now to get the swimmers ready for the SEA Games,” said the Australian coach.
“The swimmers are trying to beat the SEA Games qualifying times. Ideally, these two meets should be for them to make the attempts.
“As it is, there are not that many higher level meets they can look forward to and it is disappointing when they have prepared so hard just to be told two days before leaving that they had to forget about competing.”
He felt that the authorities might have reacted to unnecessary panic.
Malaysia are the only one out of the 43 participating countries to pull out of the Asian Youth Games, which began yesterday.