Reach for the stars

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPEAK UP -

Grounds in Sen­tul and Brick­fields are gone; atop the Se­lan­gor Chi­nese Re­cre­ation Club field sits a con­crete build­ing; the Se­lan­gor In­dian As­so­ci­a­tion field and build­ing along Jalan Is­tana made way for road ex­pan­sion; the TPCA sta­dium in Jalan Raja was “ac­quired” by the gov­ern­ment; and the Se­lan­gor Club Padang is now Dataran Merdeka.

Over in Klang, the huge Town Padang where three games could be played si­mul­ta­ne­ously is now a stand­ing mon­u­ment to in­de­ci­sion. Af­ter build­ing a sta­dium, it was torn down. The Chetty Padang which has pro­duced sev­eral state and na­tional play­ers is in a di­lap­i­dated con­di­tion.

School fields have not been spared ei­ther. Many have aca­demic blocks of lab­o­ra­to­ries and li­braries plonked on fields as the stu­dent pop­u­la­tion in­creases.

We would love to heed the calls of the prime min­is­ter but even for­est re­serves where the lo­cals go for their morn­ing walk or evening jog have come un­der threat.

But de­spite the gloom, there was some con­so­la­tion in see­ing our Olympians and Par­a­lympians be­ing feted by Malaysians. Their sac­ri­fices and con­tri­bu­tions drive home the point that de­spite all hur­dles, we will over­come.

The pre­sen­ta­tion of their cheques, which they rightly de­serve, is only a frac­tion of what our gov­ern­ment spends on sports pro­mo­tion and re­lated ac­tiv­i­ties. Yes, mil­lions are go­ing to be spent on the prepa­ra­tions for next year’s SEA Games, at which we are most likely to end up as the na­tion with the most medals. We will thump our chests and shout “Malaysia Boleh”. The sta­tus of just be­ing jaguh kam­pung seems to sat­isfy the needs of po­lit­i­cal ex­pe­di­ency.

On Sun­day, I was surf­ing chan­nels on tele­vi­sion be­tween the Ja­panese Grand Prix and the In­done­sian Golf Masters. The win­ner was a baby-faced 23-yearold Poom Sak­sansin of Thai­land who cruised to a com­fort­able fiveshot vic­tory. Thai teenagers Phachara Khong­wat­mai and Su­ra­dit Yongcharoen­chai, both aged just 17, and Ja­pan’s Masahiro Kawa­mura set­tled for tied sec­ond place.

Thai­land, de­spite lim­ited re­sources, has over the years con­sis­tently pro­duced so many young golfers whose names are not only on the leader boards in re­gional tour­na­ments but also on the Euro­pean and US cir­cuits. Women’s golf for long dom­i­nated by South Kore­ans now has some Thai en­trants mak­ing the win­ners’ cir­cle.

So, where have we gone wrong? Are there ded­i­cated de­vel­op­ment pro­grammes for the young? I am told that Sports Ex­cel, which hardly re­ceives a sen from the gov­ern­ment, has been in­stru­men­tal in help­ing play­ers make the grade by send­ing them overseas for train­ing.

Be­sides, it sends ju­nior play­ers for a 12-round Asia-Pa­cific Ju­nior Cir­cuit. But Sports Ex­cel is an NGO. What about the na­tional body?

Af­ter ev­ery Malaysian Open, the prime min­is­ter tra­di­tion­ally an­nounces a grant of RM1 mil­lion and in at least one case RM2 mil­lion for the de­vel­op­ment of golf. With so much money, why are we un­able to come even close to the Thais?

M. Je­gath­e­san at one time held three na­tional records – 100m, 200m and 400m. Af­ter 48 years, no one has been able to beat the 20.92s record he set for the 200m event at the Mex­ico Olympics in 1968. This is de­spite the de­vel­op­ment in train­ing, footwear and sur­faces.

It may be of in­ter­est to note that at the Rio Par­a­lympic Games last month, a dis­abled mid­dledis­tance run­ner shat­tered the 1500m Par­a­lympic world record and beat Olympic cham­pion Matthew Cen­trowitz’s time by more than 1.7s.

Ab­del­latif Baka of Al­ge­ria won the 1500m fi­nal and the feat was made all the more stun­ning given the fact that the sec­ond, third and fourth-placed fin­ish­ers all recorded times faster than Cen­trow­icz, mean­ing that four Par­a­lympic ath­letes had run times fast enough to win gold had they com­peted in the Olympic Games.

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