PRIME Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak wants Malaysia to be a sports powerhouse.
However, a mammoth task lies ahead in achieving the vision and mission of being an elite sporting nation.
We cannot get carried away by being overall champions in the 29th Kuala Lumpur Sea Games and being runners-up in the Asean Para Games this year.
There is no doubt we gained international recognition by achieving good results in international competitions and hosting sporting events.
We had success in diving, badminton, cycling, squash, bodybuilding and bowling.
Our athletes did well at last year’s Rio Olympics and Paralympics, but we haven’t won a gold medal since the 1956 Melbourne Olympics.
However, as a former national athlete, some of our 57 national sports associations lack leadership and grassroots development in producing champions like Datuk Nicol David (squash), Datuk Lee Chong Wei (badminton), Pandelela Rinong and Cheong Jun Hoong (diving), Azizul Hasni Awang (cycling), Shalin Zulkilfi and Esther Cheah (bowling).
We made improvements by having the Podium Programme to prepare athletes for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
We engaged consultants to chart a vision and action plan, and we engaged sports psychologists and added a sports science module to give our athletes an edge.
Najib said there were five ingredients each elite athlete in the Podium Programme must have to succeed: technique, physical strength, nutrition, mental strength and health.
Malaysia must pay more attention to the role that sport can play as a tool for social and personal development.
The government, in the 2018 Budget, had allocated RM1 billion for sports with 14 more sports schools to produce more champions.
C. SATHASIVAM SITHERAVELLU
Seremban, Negri Sembilan