MALAYSIAN sports hit dreamy heights this year when the country finallyconquered the SEA Games as hosts. Malaysia's 111 gold-medal haul was their highest-ever in the biennialGames and fittingly, we became overall champions for the very first time.
No one, apart from the athletes it seems, relished the magical momentmore than National Sports Council's (NSC) director-general Datuk WiraMazlan Ahmad.
Returning after a year recovering from a heart bypass, Mazlan gainedtotal relief from seeing a grand dream realised to its full magnitude.
But while his tortured heart rests more easily now, there's still muchfor Malaysian sports to develop on. As the statistics recount the glorious moments by itself, Mazlan can'thelp but look back on some of the misses that left some rough spots whichbadly need to be ironed out before new heights can be scaled.
He relates it all to Mailsport's S.S. DHALIWAL:
"This year will be remembered mostly for our unprecedented success inthe SEA Games. One-hundred-and-eleven gold (28.3 per cent), 75 silver(19.23 per cent) and 85 bronze (17.06 per cent) medals are our highesthaul ever, since we started in the SEAP or SEA Games.
"We also became overall champions for the first time and dominated 12 ofthe 32 sports contested.
"Before this, our finest gold medal haul came in 1989, also in KL wherewe took 67 gold (22.11 per cent). Our best finish outside home came at the1999 Games in Brunei where 57 gold (24.4 per cent) were won.
"I could go on and on, on these wonderful statistics. But wait. While wehave been successful, we also need to stay successful. And that can onlyhappen when we remind ourselves of our shortcomings, admit our faults andact on them.
"We have an urgent reminder of all that in athletics, given the sport'sfailure to meet its target by half in the SEA Games.
"To arrest its decline, we now have the MAAU Task Force. Set up by theSports Minister through the Sports Development Act of 1997, we hope itwill not only better the sport's management, but also widen its activitiesthroughout the country.
"We have to act fast - athletics offers 46 gold medals at events likethe SEA Games, Asian and Commonwealth Games and the Olympics.
"As a reminder to other sports associations, the Sports Development Actapplies to all of them equally if there's a need.
"Its objective is to improve the management of sports in associationswhich have problems associated with fulfilling their objectives.
"Associations whose athletes are not getting the results have to buck upand find ways to improve their performances or else the Sports Minister orCommissioner will have to come in.
"Another letdown came from our national youth hockey team, which onlyfinished 12th out of 16 teams in the Junior World Cup in Hobart. But thenagain, we did not even qualify for the 1997 edition.
"Our cyclists also were quite a disappointment, managing only 22nd inthe Tour de Langkawi, and failing to retain their East Asian title.
"Our shooters are still struggling to make the impact they desire at theworld stage, despite the rise in their points.
"A few sports experienced a slump at Asian level, especiallybodybuilding, which uncharacteristically failed to win a medal at theAsian Championships.
"It was also unsatisfactory to see netball managing only third at theAsian championships, behind Sri Lanka and Singapore.
"Finally, much of my discontent also stems from the perception of somequarters who still gauge the progress of Malaysian sports through onlysoccer, badminton and sepaktakraw.
"That, I must say, is unfair when you look at the many other sports thathave made good progress of their own.
"It's been a very encouraging year for Malaysian sports as a whole, onthe regional and also international stages, and I'm pleased to note themerits heavily outweigh the demerits.
"But the striving for excellence is a never-ending journey. In what is ahighly positive year for Malaysian sports, it is still only the beginning.So, let's stop resting on our laurels and refocus on what's ahead now."
SUCCESS STORIES OF 2001 SEA GAMES SPORTS THAT ACHIEVED THE TARGETS SET
Aquatics, synchronised swimming, netball, hockey (men and women), lawnbowls, squash, weightlifting and silat.
SPORTS THAT EXCELLED
Aquatics (swimming and diving), equestrian, gymnastics, karate, sailing,basketball (w), wushu, badminton, golf (m), shooting and boxing.
SPORTS THAT SHOWED IMPROVEMENT
Football (m), volleyball (m), archery, tennis (w), petanque andbasketball (m).
SPORTS THAT FAILED TO ACHIEVE TARGETS
Cycling, billiards and snooker, taekwondo, athletics and sepaktakraw.
SPORTS THAT FAILED
Aquatics (waterpolo), football (w), golf (w), judo, volleyball (w),fencing, rowing, ping pong and tennis (m).
Diving: Asia Cup Diving Championships, China (three golds and twobronzes). The achievement of the divers at the world championships inJapan placed them as second amongst Asian countries in two events - 10msynchro platform and three-metre synchro springboard. Cycling: ACC Championships, Taipei (Josiah Ng - Keirin - fourth). AsianJunior championships, Taipei (two silvers and 2 bronzes). Squash: Asian Junior Championships, India (three golds and two silvers). Bowling: FIQ Junior championships Dubai (four golds, one silver and twobronzes). Athletics: Asian Junior championships, Brunei (two silvers and onebronze). Badminton: Malaysian Open (Ong Ewe Hock, champion). Japan Open (RoslinHashim, champion). Swiss Open (Roslin Hashim, champion). Dutch Open (LeeTsuen Seng, champion). Thai Open (Yong Hock Kin, champion). China Open(Wong Choon Hann, runnerup). Singapore Open (Wong Choon Hann, runnerup).Copenhagen Masters (Wong Choon Hann, runnerup). Indonesian Open (Lee TsuenSeng, runnerup).
Equestrian: Datuk Kamaruddin Abd Ghani was ranked No 1 for the year2001. Qabil Ambak emerged champion of the South-East Asia ShowjumpingCurcuit and qualified for the 2002 World Championships. Swimming: Lim Keng Liat became the first Malaysian to qualify for thesemifinals of the 100m backstroke event at the World Championships. Diving: Rosatimah Mohammad, Leong Mun Yee and Yeo Ken Nee qualified forthe semifinals of the World championships in Japan. Gymnastics: Sarina Sundarajah improved on her world ranking from 78 in2000 to 49 in 2001 at the World championships that saw the participationof 131 gymnasts. Cycling: Lee Robert, Mariam and Nor Azian won one silver and two bronzeat the World B championships in the Individual Pursuit (m), 500mindividual time trial (w) and individual pursuit (w).
OTHER SUCCESS STORIES
Bowling: Shalin Zulkifli emerged fourth at the AMF World Cup in Pattaya. Squash: Nicol David emerged champion while Tricia Chuah was semifinalistat the World Junior Championships. The team also emerged runnersup. Badminton: Chong Tan Fook and Lee Wan Wah emerged third at the worldchampionships in Seville. Karate: Karate-Do KOI, Kota Kinabalu (five golds). 4th LadiesInternational Cup, Tokyo (two bronzes). Sailing: World Optimist championships, China (one bronze).