YOUTH and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin was right when he asked the public to lower their expectations for the Myanmar SEA Games next month.
Yes, only 40 gold medals are expected to be delivered by the Malaysian contingent this time. It’s still not too bad, considering that Malaysia already lost a total of 28 gold medals even before the athletes step foot in Myanmar.
Events that contributed gold in Indonesia but are not part of the Myanmar edition are aquatics (8), track cycling (7), fencing (2), shooting (2), tenpin bowling (5) and water-skiing (4).
I’m pretty sure the Malaysian contingent should be able to meet the 40-gold target but it also raises the question whether it is something to be proud of, at the end of the day.
The fact remains that all the member countries in this region, including Malaysia, have treated the SEA Games like their own community sporting festival and included sports they are assured of dominating.
The trend started when Vietnam hosted the Games in 2003 and included fin swimming. Then it was the Philippines’ turn to bring in arnis (a form of martial arts indigenous to the country) and Thailand then staged muay thai in 2007.
Laos introduced shuttlecock kicking in 2009 and Indonesia was rewarded with a clean sweep from roller-sports and vovinam two years ago.
It will be Myanmar’s fight for self gratification when they stage chinlone, a sport similar to sepaktakraw next month.
Malaysia, for sure, will bring back lawn bowls and bowling when it comes our turn to host it in 2017 as we bid to become overall champions for only the second time in SEA Games history.
Traditional sports, one may argue, should have its place in the spirit of Asean solidarity but let’s not forget that the ultimate goal for every member country is to produce an Olympic champion of its own.
It is in this sense that the member countries of Asean have failed to do enough to ensure that the hosts do not include sports that are indigenous in nature.
So, winning 40 or 50 gold medals should not be something for us to gloat about when we are no longer able to challenge strongly in blue riband sports like athletics and swimming.
Malaysia do not even have representation in the men’s 100m sprint for the first time in the history of track and field in the SEA Games.
The country is only good for five or six gold medals, which is a miserable haul considering that 40 gold medals are on offer.
And in the pool, the situation is not any better as two or three golds is the prediction.
This proves that either Malaysia are already lagging when it comes to grooming talents or the current environment just does not provide well enough for nurturing athletes hungry for success.
The writer has not missed the SEA Games since Brunei in 1999 and hopes that next month’s edition will bring pleasant memories, like previous Games.
by Lim Teik Huat - The Star