Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Not a breeze but a welcome challenge

A huge number of our athletes were making their Sea Games debut in Indonesia and for all intents and purposes, I could also be included on that list as this is my first time covering the Games outside Malaysia.

   I have been a Timesport journalist since 1997 and when Alex Yoong stated that it had been 14 years since he competed in the Sea Games, I couldn't  help but smile as it took me the same number   of years to cover a multi-sports event abroad.

   I am definitely privileged to be part of this regional event which is considered by my peers as "the toughest assignment" due to the huge number of sports, logistical problems and difficulties in obtaining results.

   I have been in Palembang since Nov 7 and the city has earned the dubious distinction of being the worst organised due to the lack of facilities, inexperienced officials while the scant attention shown by the Indonesia Sea Games organising committee (Inasoc), based in Jakarta, did not help the city.

   This only made our work more challenging, something I embraced gladly and started interviewing athletes, officials and parents like a rookie journalist would.

   My experience in   covering  multi-sports events in Malaysia without fail, did come in handy as I was familiar with the majority of the athletes who I had interviewed or spoken with when they were very much younger.

   The last time I spoke to and wrote about hammer thrower Tan Song Hwa, who gave Malaysia their first athletics gold, was in the Malaysia Open in Penang in 2006. And it was flattering that she was able to recognise me.

 That boosted my confidence and I did not feel like a cub reporter.    Badminton, the beat that I specialise in, has become so huge that I had only limited opportunities to cover other sports but this Games has been the break that I had needed.

   I was also fortunate to witness the extraordinary feat of Malaysia's men's 4x400m quartet and the  vintage Sam Chong guiding the young Rory Thor to the men's doubles snooker gold.

   The search for transport, which sometimes led to me  walking in the scorching heat  at the Jakabaring Sports Complex -- which is twice the size of the National Sports Complex in Bukit Jalil, will be fondly remembered despite the torture.

   And the local community  never gave us any problems.  In fact, my colleague, Ajitpal Singh,  had an amusing experience when  sports fans   especially the women, probably mistaking  him for a Hindustani movie star or athlete, would often snap his picture.

Even one of our charted  taxi drivers, Buyong, initially referred to Ajitpal as "Mat Salleh"  until we had to convince him that he is a Malaysian.

   I may get to cover the Myanmar Sea Games in 2013 but it is not going to match the experience I have encountered here.

It has been one hell of a joyride in Palembang.

Read more: NST

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