Triple jumper Muhd Hakimi Ismail is one of the Malaysian gold medal winners at the Singapore SEA Games. - S.S.KANESAN/ The STAR
SINGAPORE: Don’t blame me!
Malaysian Athletics Federation (MAF) technical director Robert Ballard does not want fingers pointed at him for the athletes’ poor results in the Singapore SEA Games.
There was a whopping 46 gold medals at stake in athletics, but all the 38 Malaysian athletes could manage from the track and field events were three golds, two silvers and nine bronzes.
That’s Malaysia’s worst outing since the inception of the biennial Games in Bangkok in 1959.
Even Singapore finished ahead of us with a haul of 3-3-3.
The Australian coach instead blamed the poor outing to “outside interference” and lack of funding.
Ballard, who was hired last year, said he was not given full responsibility to handle the athletes’ training programmes.
“One person should be put in charge of the training programme ... and that’s me. But that wasn’t the case. I need full support to carry out my job and to produce quality athletes. How am I to work when there’s outside interference?” said a disappointed Ballard.
To make matters worse, Ballard said he was not given a free hand to run the training programmes.
“I don’t have the final say. MAF cancelled the overseas competitions at the last minute, especially the trip to the Taiwan Open last month. It was an important meet to prepare the athletes for the SEA Games ... but it was shot down,” he said.
“I have stressed that the athletes need to compete in many competitions and also go for longer overseas training stints to improve on their performances ... but that didn’t take place. It’s the same with local coaches ... they’re not being sent for courses to expand their coaching knowledge.”
He also cited the lack of funds for the poor results.
“Huge amounts of money should be allocated for athletics. This will allow me to plan my training programmes for at least four years. Look at Vietnam. They have done a good job in the SEA Games because their government had invested millions by sending their athletes for training stints in Florida on a long-term basis.
“They spent US$50,000 (RM180,000) on each athlete to train in Florida for a year. The investment has paid dividends,” he said.
One of their runners, Florida-based Nguyen Thi-huyen, clocked a personal best time of 52.00 to win the gold in the women’s 400m and has qualified for next year’s Olympics. The Olympic qualifying mark is 52.00.
Thailand emerged overall champions in athletics for the 10th straight time with a haul of 17-13-19, followed by Vietnam (11-15-8).
Malaysia will host the SEA Games in 2017 and, if MAF do not crack the whip from now, we can expect a disaster in our own backyard.
The Star Online