Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Minnows fast closing the gap

If there is something to look forward to when the 26th Sea Games ends with plans for Myanmar to host its first edition of the biennial event since 1969, it will be the raised level of competition in a number of sports.

   While Malaysia looks to have got the ball rolling with the successful Jaya '98 programme, which saw an influx of foreign expertise and massive funding geared towards elevating the country's performances to levels unseen before, it now seems everybody is doing the same.

   One can't help but notice the increased number of foreign coaches playing roles in teams from Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos in these Games.

   It is clear that these countries are no longer willing to occupy the bottom half of the medal table but want to challenge  Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and Malaysia.

   The only fear should be that Malaysia seems to have lost the progressive momentum in certain sports, which had experienced meteoric rises.

   While many expect the athletics contingent to still deliver, despite the immense bickering and politicking in the  Malaysian AAU (MAAU), the point remains that the sport has nothing to show on the bigger stage.

    This is unlike  sports like cycling or diving who have repaid the government's trust with world class progress at some levels.

   Having said that,  the Malaysian National Cycling Federation (MNCF) too only has the exploits of the elite track squad to be proud of, while they are failing  miserably on all other accounts.

   Yesterday, the experienced Ng Yong Li produced a rather embarrassing 12th placing in the men's individual time trial, while youngster Mohd Ekbar Zaman Huri was 10th.

   To sound the alarm bell, Singapore, left in the backwaters of Sea Games cycling for so long, seem to have found some momentum with medals in both the men's and women's individual time trials through Darren Low (men's silver) and Dinah Chan (women's bronze).

   While the mountain bike and BMX squad can be excused because they have not had the benefit of strong government support, the road squad are  in dire straits.

   Nothing they do seems to be working despite being absorbed alongside the track programme by the NSC since 2007, the  year they failed to deliver a single gold medal at the Sea Games for the first time since 1997.

   While cycling is seen as one of the sports to have enjoyed a fantastic rise in profile, the MNCF could soon be, again, in charge of a sport that has been left behind by the progress of Malaysia's neighbours.

   Yesterday,  riders from Myanmar, Timor Leste and Laos finished higher than some Malaysians in a cycling event and that must worry MNCF.

Read more: NST

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