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Walk the talk

(L-R): The writer, Rizal Hashim and Analisis Nadi host Bazly Azmi.

THE knives are out and in typical fashion the blame game begins as Malaysia ends its forgettable outing at the just concluded Commonwealth Games with seven gold, five silver and 12 bronze medals.

First to bear the brunt would be Tim Newenham and Co. 

The Podium Programme director is well aware of the objective set by his team, which was formally introduced on Feb 22, 2016; that is to be in the “Top 10 in Gold Coast 2018”, as stated on the National Sports Institute (NSI) website.

Podium Programme's objectives as state on NSI's website
Despite the bullish objective, officials kept mum over their expectations in Australia up until the eleventh hour simply because they had confidence in only a handful, literally speaking, of athletes winning their respective events.

The nation’s best achievement is at the 2010 Delhi Games with 12 gold medals, 10 silver and 14 bronze medals.

For the record, over RM145 million has been allocated for the Podium Programme – which now comes under intense scrutiny. 

There is also a bigger fear – are our athletes ready for the 18th Asian Games in Indonesia come August?

From the seven gold medals (2 badminton; 1 diving; 1 lawn bowls; 1 rhythmic gymnastics; 2 weightlifting) won in Gold Coast, our hope remains on badminton – despite the team contributing only two gold medals instead of the targeted three projected by the BA of Malaysia prior their trip Down Under. 

Despite winning two gold medals, our weightlifters have plenty of catching up to do when they face their Asian peers – as evident during last year’s SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur.

Lawn bowls, a sport that contributed one gold medal in Gold Coast, will not be contested in the Jakarta-Palembang Games.

It will also be tough for our divers who will face opponents from China, Japan and both the Koreas. The same can be said about rhythmic gymnastics.

I was a panellist on Astro Arean’s Analisis Nadi over the past two weeks. Hosted by two time Sportswriters’ Association of Malaysia Journalist of the Year Bazly Azmi, I was joined by two others: renowned sports journalists – former Malay Mail colleague Rizal Hashim and former Kosmo sports editor Asan Ahmad. 

My final appearance on the show was on the penultimate day of the Commonwealth Games where National Sports Institute (NSI) chief executive officer Dr Mohd Khairi Zawi was invited to the studio.

Dr Khairi in action.
Among the burning questions raised:

i. whether the Podium Programme, a programme under NSI, was deemed effective given that it had failed its objective of the national contingent finishing in the top 10 in Gold Coast?

ii. who should be held accountable for poor performances of the athletes?

iii. will the programme be revised?

Following Analisis Nadi last night, many were quick to provide their insights, including those who failed to create a lasting impression during their time in office.

Dr Khairi, an academician who succeeded Datuk Dr Ramlan Aziz as NSI chief, said he wanted a full and transparent report of what had transpired in Gold Coast.

The big biker did not discount the possibility action will be taken against the programme’s officials, adding a “massive restructuring exercise will be conducted soon”.

It must be noted that there were several positives seen during the Games. Shah Firdaus Shahrom and Farina Shawati Adnan have emerged as the country’s new cycling stars. 

Women’s doubles players Vivian Hoo and Chow Mei Kuan surprised many with their gold medal effort.

Sprinter Zaidatul Husniah Zulkifli, who sorely missed her coach M. Balamurugan who was not granted an accreditation for the Games, was in tears after he made it to the 100m semi final – equalling G. Shanti’s achievement in the 1998 Kuala Lumpur Games.

The issue of “excess baggage” will continue to spark conversations when the contingent returns from Gold Coast. Many still ponder the roles played by several individuals there. Dr Khairi, meanwhile, was not in Gold Coast due to “limited accreditation cards”. Read my earlier posting 'Gold Coast 2018: Business or pleasure?'

Analisis Nadi, produced by Rozaini Ahmad and Lukman Salleh, allowed the panellists and guests to air their views as the show was often accompanied by statistics and historical facts about sports and the athletes.

(L-R): Asan, Lukman, Rizal, Rozaini and Bazly.
Fans are free to agree or disagree by voicing their thoughts on Astro Arena’s social media accounts. Catch the final Analisis Nadi for the Commonwealth Games tonight at 11.30pm (channel 801 & 802HD).

Expect more analysis-driven shows as sports fans gear up for the 2018 Russia World Cup (June 14 – July 15) and the Asian Games.

Till then, it is hoped that those tasked with charting the fortunes of our national athletes realise the days of basking in the spotlight are over and it is now time to walk the talk.

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