THIS article is not biased against any sport, but just stating facts as they stand today. The Podium Programme will come under the microscope over the next two days, to chart a fresh perspective in what is perceived by many as a failed venture to uplift the image of Malaysia as a sporting nation. Among those invited are Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, National Sports Council (NSC) director general Datuk Ahmad Shapawi Ismail, National Sports Institute CEO Dr Khairi Zawi, former Podium director Tim Newenham and Olympic Council of Malaysia president Datuk Seri Norza Zakaria. Also on the list are the heads of the respective national sports associations (NSAs) involved with the programme. The interesting part is not the opening, but the closing agenda as the two-day event will end with a presentation of overall reports and recommendations. Here is where the NSAs involved, should be realistic and not get emotional, and not presenting their case just for the sake of continuing to receive funding for their athletes. For, even the layman knows that at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Malaysia’s realistic chances of winning medals will come from diving, cycling and badminton athletes. Podium, or whatever name is it called after the post mortem, must continue supporting these three sports to achieve Malaysia's dream of winning its first Olympic gold medal. And where does that leave the other sports? It leaves them in the cold, except for some which are world class and are trying to make a comeback at the highest level after decades of trying. Hockey comes to mind, as well as medal potential taekwondo and Olympic newcomer karate. While there are only a handful of athletes and officials to take care of in karate and taekwondo, hockey is a 16-member team sport (only for the Olympics, in other games, 18 are allowed to be registered) which needs a host of coaches and back-up crew. In hockey, Malaysia are ranked 12th in the world, have qualified for the World Cup, and are ranked second in Asia after coming as close as 20 seconds to winning a historic Asian Games gold, as well as qualifying for the Olympics on merit. But they failed, not for want of trying, but want of a better ending script. Hockey will be involved with a last-gasp measure to qualify for the Olympics and simply put — they need sports science help more than any other sport right now. So, the Podium Programme must end its post mortem by considering not only the medal potentials, but also sports which have a world standing and have been shakers and movers for decades. Hockey is one which deserves to continue standing at the top of the Podium Programme, with others who are deemed fit by those who hold the money bag. If anybody thinks this article is in favour of any sport, read the intro again.
Sports Journalist with the New Straits Times since 1994.
My main beat is field hockey, so this blog will have stories that I have written for the NST, as well as hockey news from around the globe. There will be regular updates. I was also the Secretary General of the National Press Club, Malaysia for three terms (six years).