|Image: National Sports Council, Malaysia|
The focus seems to be on the Podium Programme for obvious reasons.
After all, those behind the programme had set high targets but have to date failed twice – failing to finish top ten in both the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games.
While the knives are out for those behind the Podium Programme, a programme under the National Sports Institute, let’s not forget another programme under the National Sports Council – Kita Juara.
On Sept 7, 2015, The Star (in its article ‘Kita Juara’programme launched in bid for SEA Games glory') quoted former Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin as saying:
“The ‘Kita Juara’ programme will lay the foundation for future success ... it’s not short-sighted.
“There’s no point becoming overall winners at the 2017 SEA Games and then let it all go downhill once more.”
Malaysia became the overall winners at last year’s SEA Games – winning 145 gold medals, 92 silver medals and 86 bronze medals (total 323 medals).
It went downhill after the SEA Games as Malaysia experienced a forgettable outing at the Commonwealth Games in April and the Asian Games last month.
At the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Malaysia ended 12th in the standings with seven gold medals, five silver medals and 12 bronze medals (24 medals). That’s just one gold medal more than the Glasgow Games four years ago.
At the Asian Games in Jakarta-Palembang, Malaysia finished 14th (seven gold, 13, silver, 16 bronze) – just two medals more than what was achieved at the 2014 edition in Incheon.
Let's take a look at how athletes from Kita Juara fared?
68 athletes from Podium Programme
109 from Kita Juara.
From the seven gold medals, six were from Podium Programme athletes.
They were Datuk Lee Chong Wei (men’s singles badminton), Vivian Hoo (women’s doubles badminton), Cheong Jun Hoong, Pandelela Rinong (diving women’s synchronised 10m platform), Emma Firyana Saroji, Siti Zalina Ahmad (lawn bowls women’s pairs), Amy Kwan Dict Weng (rhythmic gymnastics – ribbon), weightlifters Muhammad Azroy Hazalwa Izhar Ahmad (56kg) and Muhamad Aznil Bidin (62kg).
Vivian’s partner Chow Mei Kuan is from Kita Juara – thus the one gold medal representation from the programme.
From the 24 medals won, 18 athletes were from the Podium Programme and four medals were picked up from the Kita Juara athletes.
Two medals were from a combination of Podium and Kita Juara – ie. Vivian and Mei Kuan in the women’s doubles and women’s team event.
From the 176 Category A athletes:
90 were from the Podium Programme
86 from Kita Juara.
Podium Programme athletes won five gold medals. The athletes are bowlers Esther Cheah, Siti Safiyah Amirah Abdul Rahman and Syaidatul Afifah Badrul (women’s trios) and Rafiq Ismail (men’s masters); cyclist Azizulhasni Awang (men's sprint), young sailor Muhammad Fauzi Kaman Shah (open laser 4.7) and squash queen Datuk Nicol Ann David.
A combination of Podium Programme and Kita Juara athletes won the remaining two gold medals.
They are squash players Nafiizwan Adnan, Ng Eain Yow and Yuen Chee Wern and Mohammad Syafiq Kamal (Kita Juara); AND the men's sepak takraw regu players.
Speaking about speak takraw, this was reported during the SEA Games last year:
"The result is especially disappointing considering the substantial amount of funding pumped into the sport via the Podium and Kita Juara programmes."
Two days ago, I asked how much was invested into the Podium Programme? Even former Olympic Council of Malaysia honorary secretary Datuk Sieh Kok Chi said the programme's figures should be revealed.
Today, I would like to know how much, in total, has been pumped into Kita Juara since 2015.
In 2015, it was reported:
From the 2017 Budget, RM50 million out of the RM550 million allocated to host the 2017 SEA Games was pumped into Kita Juara (based on minutes obtained from Dewan Rakyat).
As there is hardly any other reference to the exact figure spent into the programme, it would be difficult to say how much has been used over the past three years.
Could it be more than what was spent on the Podium Programme? And was it money well spent?
Our athletes, and sports in general, should not be made to suffer or take sides due to the different programmes (or camps) that are run by different agencies. There is no competition between Podium and Kita Juara - in fact both programmes should compliment each other.
Clearly, both programmes have, prima facie, failed.
As I said repeatedly during my 15-day stint live on Astro Arena’s Nadi Analisis Sukan Asia Jakarta-Palembang – how has winning 145 gold medals at the 2017 SEA Games helped our athletes and Malaysian sports on the bigger stage?