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Date [ 2012-08-14, 11:50 ]

How did the country fare?

(Kuala Lumpur=koreanpress) by Benjamin Kim =  After two weeks of competition, the London Olympics has come to a close as major sporting festival. Watched by billions around the globe, it has Olympics President Jacques Rogge praising the Games as "happy and glorious." The sporting spectacular was brought to a close in a three-hour ceremony by British rock band, The Who.

But what of Malaysia? Arriving with a sporting contingent of 30 and going back home with just a silver and bronze is nothing much to shout about. She finished 63rd out of a total of 85 countries, putting her not far from the bottom of the medal table.

Seeing the gold flicked from our hand was just as heartbreaking to us as it was to Datuk Lee Chong Wei. His apology after he was beaten by his nemesis, Lin Dan of China, was certainly all the more painful. "I have let down my country, my fans, my family and above all myself as I so wanted to win the gold medal. I am truly sorry as I failed to deliver the medal." He further revealed that,

"When the final point was won, I just collapsed, knowing I had let 28 million Malaysians down, who were counting on me to win. And when they played the Chinese national anthem, tears flowed freely as I had dreamt of listening to Negaraku at the famous Wembley Arena."

Datuk Lee has laid to rest doubts that this is the end of his dreams. He will now gear himself for that elusive gold at the Rio Olympics in 2016.

One other bright spot was when flag bearer, Pandelela Rinong won a bronze medal for the women’s 10m Platform diving. The 19-year was in tears as she became the first Malaysian woman to win an Olympic medal.

She had this to say,”I feel very proud and happy because I just won a medal for Malaysia. It’s really an honour. It’s a great, great thing for Malaysia. Diving is not that popular like badminton in Malaysia. I hope I will be inspiring the youth to now take up diving.

I feel very proud of Malaysia. I hope Malaysia is proud of me.”

While many Malaysians consider the London Olympic 2012 as a failure, the official stance is that it is a success.

The National Sports Council (NSC) Director-General, Datuk Seri Zolkples Embong pointed out that the London medal tally  equallyed the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.  There, shuttlers Cheah Soon Kit/Yap Kim Hock won a silver for the men's doubles while Rashid Sidek took a bronze for the men's singles. He also stressed that, ”The Games showed that we don't have to depend on badminton alone for medals."

Datuk Seri Zolkples informed that the NSC would now focus on sports personlities like cyclist Mohd Azizulhasni Awang, fencer Yu Peang Kean and  archer Khairul Anuar Mohamad for the coming 2016 Brazil Olympics.

So then, just how successful were these Olympics for Malaysia? Questions are bound to rise over this issue, where RM20mil was invested over a four-year period on 30 athletes. 

One point that was made was Malaysian competitors need to stay
sharp and alert. It was felt that archers like Khairul Anuar, need to develop a more competitive edge to be successful at the Olympic level.

Diving was a success story as Pan­delela and Yeoh Ken Nee became the first Malaysians to qualify for the individual finals. Now Ken Nee, after 19 years as a competitor, is turning to coaching. Hopefully he will be able to groom a champion by the time Rio comes around.

The disappointment was the synchronised teams. They had been expected to be among the medal winners but failed to even get a top five placing.
In terms of performance, the athletes, generally did well in London, though there were a few who could have done better.

Perhaps, because these were past their prime and thus were abject failures. Hurdler Noraseela Khalid and high jumper Lee Hup Wei did not even come close to their personal bests. The Malaysian Athletic Union (MAU) may now have to revise their selection policies.

Lee Chong Wei has provided sterling service to the country with two silver medals. It was most unfortunate he could not win the gold. even though he played some of his best badminton in the final against Lin Dan. But what is more unfortunate is that there still is no replacement in sight for him.

The doubles pair of Koo Kien Keat- Tan Boon Heong showed promise in the early stages but fizzled out against three-time world champions Cai Yun and Fu Haifeng in the semi-finals.

Later,  it was disappointing to see them lose without much fight in the bronze medal playoff against South Korea’s Chung Jae-sung and Lee Yong-dae. Doubts arose on the Malaysian pair’sfitness level as they could not maintain their form at the most crucial stages.

The other disappointment was the mixed doubles pair of Chan Peng Soon and Goh Liu Ying, who lost all their group matches, This, despite being touted as medal contenders. They were Malaysia’s first mixed pair in the Olympics and perhaps overawed by the event and became a tight knot of nerves. Chef de mission, Tun Ahmad Sarji did say the pair needed more exposure to be able to compete at Olympiad level in the future.

This can be applied to pretty much to the rest of the sports fielded by Malaysia. A case in point. Cyclist Azizulhasni Awang did well to make the keirin final but got himself boxed out and finished last.

Azizul revealed, “I knew it would be an uphill climb once I started at the back. I tried hard to move up but ran out of steam in the end.”

Still, for an athlete his size, the Pocket Rocket did rather well. The Malaysian National Cycling Federation must now figure out how to give Azizul that extra boost to deal with the heavier European riders. It is good he is still 24, and so will be able to build up his career well before he has to make that all important trip to Rio.

His coach, John Beasley, is confident that Azizul will bring home a medal from there. “He certainly has the temperament and drive to be a champion. And he isn’t afraid to work hard either. Give me a few more Azizuls and I will have a gold medal for you. It’s great coaching him.”

One story that stood out was not the winning of medals but the determination to win one. Otherwise how to explain the appearance of eight-month pregnant shooter Nur Suryani Mohamed Taibi? She became the first Olympian to compete in such an advanced state of incubation. She finished 34th and at this time, there is no news whether she has delivered or not.

Fencing, archery, and marathon swimmer Heidi Gan, performed creditably although their efforts fell short.
Fencer Yu Peng Kean will go nowhere without that extra push, plus more competitions to get that much needed experience to excel. As for archers Khairul Anuar, Cheng Chu Sian and Haziq Kamaruddin they seriously need to develop their competitive edge. Otherwise they will never hit the bull’s eye!

The message brought back from London is that we have the talent but lack the vital preparations in certain areas. Areas in which lie the difference between winning and losing.
In other words, most of our athletes clearly lacked the experience to perform to the best of their ability, to burn up that extra calories They certainly have the determination but not the temperament for a big stage like the Olympics.
Let us hope in four year’s time, besides the Olympic flame, our atheletes too have their individual fires burning fiercely inside them.


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