SEA Games aftermath: ‘We have strayed, individually and collectively’

Malaysia ended its SEA Games campaign in Hanoi with 39 gold medals, and was placed sixth in the medal tally.

Can anybody say how many medals it would take to finish first, second or whatever — never mind sixth — knowing full well that the number of athletes sent would curtail the number of medals?

Also, their performance, on any given day, might be more challenging to predict than the weather.

Never mind the fact that the sports we are good at may not be featured at every edition of the regional Games.

Only when we play host to the SEA Games would we be in the ”driver’s seat” — in terms of the number of our participating athletes, and the horse-trading that goes on in determining the list of sports to be competed at the Games.

Let’s not get into that trap of public chest-thumping that’s so much loved by those garden-variety politicians and armchair ex-journo observers flogging themselves as “analysts”, but who have never contributed even two beads of their sweat in the actual business of developing and managing high-performance sport who would revel in what our forefathers might deem as “menangguk di air keruh” (taking advantage of a situation).

The only statistics, or results that matter is in the bigger scheme of things – the “bigger” Games – such as the Asian Games, Commonwealth Games, and the Olympics.

Firstly, the performances and achievements of the athletes/teams can be tracked in an objective manner. The results can then be compared with the current records or achievements of the best athletes in the world.

If the achievement is near enough to mount a challenge to at least be competitive, or come within sniffing distance of a medal, then work out what it takes to achieve that, or better.

Secondly, instead of merely judging based on the medal tally or the finishing position, look at the percentage of medals won – be it gold, silver or bronze – over the number of participants sent to those Games away from home.

The Games that we host in our own back yard, with the myriad of advantages therein, should be analysed separately, as the conditions and parameters are different.

Thirdly, educate the public and manage expectations in a transparent manner without any of the typical smoke-and-mirrors that politicians and pseudo-politico-civil service ladder-climbers use some people we know in positions of trust are fond of playing.

Would anybody, beyond the sycophants and suchlike, be easily fooled?

Next, and certainly not least, scrutinise the roles that schools, families, employers, communities and society play in arresting the decline that we see in the sports that we were once dominant in, but struggle massively with, today.

How can we expect to continue to be strong in sports when it has largely taken a back seat in formal education at all levels – life, habits, hobbies and importance – in a society that has become focused on chasing wealth, above everything else.

We have strayed – individually and collectively.

So, let’s not be hypocritical and self-aggrandising in pointing fingers.

There are numerous benefits in recognising and harnessing the power of sports at all levels – if we only bothered to look, and truly see, without self-interests getting in the way.

This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13.

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