Elite athletes clueless on Sports Ministry’s direction

Athlete in action

The nation’s elite athletes are pondering their fate, claiming they are unclear over the new direction of the Youth and Sports Ministry and its agencies.

This was evident during a meeting with atheletes of the now defunct Podium Programme and representatives from the National Sports Council (NSC) and National Sports Institute (NSI) yesterday. A day earlier, officials from the two agencies met athletes under the Kita Juara programme.

The meetings were supposed to give the athletes an overview of what to expect but those who attended said it was “information that we already knew and lacked depth”, adding the policy makers were regressing instead of moving forward. A new five-tier programme, where athletes will be categorised following their achievements in multi-sports events, will be introduced.

It is understood among the questions raised during yesterday’s meeting were:

  • Why do we have to get rid of Podium Programme? There has not been a clear reason why the programme has been scrapped.
  • Shouldn’t programmes run for at least eight years (two Olympic cycles)?
  • We were hoping to get more details like the entitlements, including competition and training exposures.
  • How will the decision makers decide who gets into which tier as some athletes may have won gold medals at the SEA Games but their timings do not qualify them for the Asian Games or Olympics?

Some coaches had their contracts terminated after the Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games, forcing athletes to pay for their own coaches. NSC and NSI had said it was the associations which would be making the decision regarding the athletes’ programme. It was learnt the Podium Programme athletes had fired numerous queries at the NSC and NSI officials compared to the Kita Juara athletes.

The lack of direction has been a talking point among athletes and officials in recent weeks.

High jumper Nauraj Singh Randhawa had even tweeted:

Nauraj Singh

When contacted, the Olympian said: “It (the tweet) was just out of frustration. I just want to train as there are important tournaments next year like the Asian and World Championships which to me are bigger than the 2019 SEA Games.”

“Yes, a meeting was held yesterday and many of us raised questions. We just want to know where we stand to help us prepare. We can’t be sitting at home shaking legs.”

Another athlete who attended the meeting but wished to remain anonymous said: “The ministry needs to make a decision, and we need a decision quickly.

“We can’t afford to waste a day. We will continue to train but there must be purpose. Competitions are important.

“Also, what about sports with little medal prospects at multi-sport events? Will they be sidelined? They deserve to know to make the required preparations.”