Thursday September 27, 2012
Time to get athletics back on track
COMMENT BY R.MANOGARAN
CHANGE is the only constant, they say.
And that was exactly what happened in the local athletics scene, with the Malaysian Athletic Union (MAU) undergoing several key personnel changes during an election on Sunday.
Out went the president Ė Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim Ė and his deputy Ė Datuk Karim Ibrahim.
And in came Datuk Zainal Abidin Ahmad and Datuk Wan Hisyam Wan Salleh respectively.
It is commendable of the affiliates to vote for a change after seeing athletics sink to the abyss in recent years.
Malaysian athletes used to rule supreme in the SEA Games and some even excelled at the Asian level.
Who can forget the achievements of such giants like Tan Sri Dr M. Jegathesan, Datuk M. Rajamani, Ishtiaq Mubarak, Khoo Chong Beng, Nashatar Singh, Marina Chin, Zaiton Othman, Saik Oik Cum, Rabuan Pit, M. Rajkumar and many, many more.
We even used to rule the roost at the Asean schools level. How many can still remember the exploits of sprinter Ooi Juat Khoon back in the 80s?
The last two decades have seen Malaysian athletics plunge into obscurity, with hardly any athlete shining on the international scene.
We have the same mediocre athletes trying Ė and failing Ė but none has risen to prominence or to the level achieved by the illustrious names above.
Every time there is an overseas competition, the same names Ė Norsheela Khalid (womenís 400m hurdles), Lee Hup Wei (menís high jump), Roslinda Samsu (womenís pole vault) and Tan Song Hwa (womenís hammer) Ė keep cropping up.
So, was it all Shahidan and Karimís fault, then?
Many of those who stood for election, and some who won, were also there during athleticsí slow fall into mediocrity.
What did they do then? Why not stand up and be counted then?
I guess itís better to be late than never, right?
Kudos to the affiliates for making their voices heard and opting for a change Ė both in the hierarchy and hopefully in the sportís fortunes.
What we need to do now is start planning for the future. Forget what has happened, you canít change that.
What the new men at the helm should do is get the best men available and start charting a new action plan to take athletics out of the doldrums.
Itís going to take time and there will be plenty of obstacles and challenges along the way.
But they must persevere.
Start drawing up long-term plans that will take athletics back into the spotlight.
Start with the grassroots Ė and that means going back to the schools.
Itís not a lost cause. Go to any schoolsí athletics meet and you will see healthy competition among the students.
There are many potential athletes out there. They just need to be identified, trained and groomed to achieve excellence.
Send the talented youngsters overseas for training and competition. The more exposure they get, the faster they will learn and improve.
The inter-bank athleticsí meet used to be big among our athletes and fans. But somewhere along the way, interest began to dwindle and the meet lost its lustre.
Revive it. Introduce prize money if necessary. Make it viable among our local athletes again.
The new management team should also breathe new life into the ailing national championships.
Athletics is still one of the blue riband event in sports, just look at the London Olympics.
People love to watch athletics. Stadiums used to be packed for athletics meets.
Even now the interest is still there. Just look at all the marathon events being held these days. Thousands make a beeline to join in these events.
It is part of athletics. The interest is there. Itís now up to the new management to work on reviving interest in athletics.
Sure we may not have Usain Bolt in our midst. But itís up to MAU now to work on unearthing one.
Donít let athletics continue to follow in the footsteps of football, which is wallowing in mediocrity.
Itís time for the new MAU management team to walk the talk.