KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 3 — A major budget cut to the National Sports Council (NSC) saw 21 track and field athletes dropped from the Podium and National Backup Programmes.

It was confirmed by the Malaysian Athletics Federation (MAF) president Datuk SM Muthu to Bernama today, adding that only 22 Podium Programme and 11 backup athletes have been retained to face three major multi-sport Games this year.

Apart from that, the budget for MAF has also been slashed by 50 per cent, which made it difficult for the national athletics governing body to plan for organising tournaments and sending athletes overseas for exposures.

“We are still in negotiations with NSC on the funding cut and the number of athletes. With the huge funding cut, we are now facing difficulties to arrange the 2022 calendar,” he said when contacted.

However, Muthu confirmed that three men’s elite athletes, namely discus thrower Muhammad Irfan Shamsuddin, Nauraj Singh Randhawa (high jump) and Muhammad Hakimi Ismail (triple jump) have been listed under the Asian and Commonwealth Games (AsiaCom) Programme.

“For the athletes under the AsiaCom Programme, NSC will bear all the costs, including overseas training and competitions,” he added.

Among the athletes excluded from the programme are women’s sprinter and double silver medallist at the 2017 SEA Games (100m & 200m) Zaidatul Husniah Zulkifli, 2017 SEA Games women’s 10,000m walking event champion Elena Goh Ling Yin, Nixson Kennedy, Muhammad Aqil Yasmin (both sprinters), Abdul Rahman Lee (discus throw), Royson Vincent and Savinder Kaur (both middle distance runners).

NSC recently announced that only 288 truly eligible athletes would be retained for full-time training programmes ahead of the Hanoi SEA Games; Birmingham Commonwealth Games and Hangzhou Asian Games, compared to over 400 athletes trained under NSC previously.

Meanwhile, the athletes retained in the Podium Programme are Lee Hup Wei, Nauraj Singh, Yap Sean Yee, Ngu Jia Xin (all high jump), Muhammad Hakimi, Muhammad Irfan, Muhammad Haiqal Hanafi, Khairul Hafiz Jantan, Jonathan Nyepa, Muhammad Zulfiqar Ismail, Russel Alexander Nasir Taib and Azreen Nabila Alias (all sprinters)

Hurdler Rayzam Shah Wan Sofian, Iskandar Alwi (pole vault), Andre Anuar Anura (long jump), Jackie Wong Siew Cheer, Grace Wong Xiu Mei (both hammer throw), Choo Kang Ni, Queenie Ting Kung Ni (both discus throw), Norliyana Kamaruddin (Heptathlon), R. Kirthana (long, triple jump) and Luqmanul Hakim Khairul Akmal (runner) also made the cut.

Muhammad Azeem Mohd Fahmi, Muhammad Arsyad Md Saat, Siti Norzullaika Ramli, Fatin Ilyana Mat Nayan, M. Darshini, Wan Muhammad Fazri Wan Zahari, Muhammad Naufal Shahrul Afzam, Sadat Marzuqi Ajisan, Nurul Hidayah Lukman, Kamal Farhan A. Rahman and Nurul Wardatul Huwaida Mohd Hamka were all listed under the national backup programme. — Bernama