Why celebrate mediocrity?

DEC 24 — The Malay Mail celebrated its year-end bash in Bangsar last Friday.

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For a brief moment, it turned out to be a mini-gathering of sports journos. Leading the pack was our editor-in-chief Datuk Syed Nadzi Syed Harun, who was a familiar face at sporting venues decades ago. Our night editor Khoo Kay Soon was once a sports editor. Also in the conversation were our sports editor Tony Mariadass and  Mustapha ‘El Loco’ Kamarudin.

I merely played observer, listening to what they had to say about Malaysian sports.

Grouses were aplenty. They spoke about discipline, character but more importantly we all agreed we have slipped into a comfort zone where we now celebrate mediocrity. Point in reference — the just concluded Myanmar SEA Games.

Malaysia clinched 43 gold medals in Myanmar — three gold medals more from the initial target of 40. We were placed fifth overall as Thailand topped the tally with 107 gold medals.

A friend, who was in Bangkok, had Tweetpic a Bangkok Post report that provided an alternative medal standing based on “international sports”. Malaysia were placed sixth — below Vietnam, Singapore and even Myanmar — with only 27 gold medals.

My Thai journo friends were surprised with our performance as they were often envious with our state-of-the-art facilities.

But our officials sung praises instead. As far as they are concerned; job done, make several feel-good statements and feel proud about it.

M. Jegathesan qualified for the semi-finals in the 200m event at the 1968 Mexico Olympic Games, creating a new Malaysian record of 20.92s which still stands unchallenged to this date.
M. Jegathesan qualified for the semi-finals in the 200m event at the 1968 Mexico Olympic Games, creating a new Malaysian record of 20.92s which still stands unchallenged to this date.

Perhaps these media-loving officials could explain why Tan Sri M. Jegathesan’s 200m record of 20.92s set in 1968 Mexico Olympics semi-finals remains intact till today?

Do tell why do we still need to bank on the likes of diver Leong Mun Yee to deliver the gold medal? For the record, this was Leong’s ninth consecutive appearance in the biennial Games.

Why the subdued reaction over the failure of our sepak takraw team? Because it is not as popular as football on social media?

But these officials have an answer to everything. After all, they had advised our athletes about diet while some decided to play Wisma Putra’s role by speaking about the security situation in Myanmar prior the Games.

They forget our sportsmen were once feared in the region. We spoke about competing at the Asian level and not struggling to be Asean giants.

Some officials need to realise they do not own Malaysian sports and the responsibility of churning out quality athletes should be shared by all — from sports associations to parents.

Let the National Sports Institute worry about sports science and the athletes’ diet while the National Sports Council should only do the one thing that they are supposed to do — play the funding arm of the ministry and nothing else.

National Sports Associations (NSA) need to take charge of their sport and the athletes. They should not allow outsiders to dictate terms internally. NSAs are not a playing ground for the elite few. If they fail in facilitating our athletes, then they should be taken to task.

Enough of being a contended lot. Stop living in denial.

As for those who had won honours for the country — including at the SEA Games — we thank you.

But do not adopt the same attitude that some of our officials have — to be easily contented, defensive over weaknesses and have self-pity. Most of our officials do not know what it means to be competitive or be challenged as they have never been put to the test.

Athletes need to always be competitive to stay ahead.

There is no shame losing in the Asian Games or Olympics but securing a personal best instead of winning a gold-medal at the SEA Games with a poor performance.

Do away with celebrating mediocrity. We must, instead, think like champions.

p/s: Merry Christmas to all! 

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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