Malaysia’s athletics scene going ‘down and down’, says former runner

Former national 400m runner P. Kuganeswari admits the standard of athletics in the country has declined over the years.

She stressed that the controversial Podium Programme, which is currently being reviewed, is too elite-centric.

“The standard of athletics is going down and down, especially among the women. We don’t seem to have back-up athletes,” said Kuganeswari, who works as an executive in a bank.

“The elite and junior athletes used to train together. This enabled the seniors to guide the juniors,” recalled Kuganeswari on the latest episode of The RSS with HD.

“When I was junior preparing for my first Asian Track and Field Championship, I had the guidance of seniors like Josephine Mary and G. Shanti. You don’t see much of that these days.

“That explains why the juniors don’t even know the seniors. They don’t mingle.”

Kuganeswari, who also competed in the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, lamented the lack of junior athletes, adding that teachers played a crucial role in developing children in sports.

“I follow my daughter for her sports events regularly as she is also a 400m runner and I’ve noticed the teachers lack knowledge in the sport.

“There was a school competition where the walking event only had two participants. I even contacted (former national walker) Annastasia Karen Raj and told her ‘what’s this la, only two runners in your event’.”

She did not seem to agree with the workings of the Podium Programme which was too “elite athlete-centric”.

“The programme seems to only be for the elite athletes but not much thought is put into (developing) the juniors.”

“At least the boys, we do see new faces at the SEA Games but not for the girls.”

Kuganeswari, however, paid tribute to Malaysia Athletics Federation deputy president Datuk Mumtaz Jaafar who has been trying to develop more runners in schools.

“She has been visiting schools and is getting some programmes running. That will ensure we will have more back-up athletes,” added Kuganeswari.

Produced by Professional Storytellers and Toucan Media, The RSS with HD is aired every Sunday at 4pm. Hosted by actor Rashid Salleh and Twentytwo13’s editor Haresh Deol, the show features prominent personalities in Malaysia.

Catch the upcoming episode on YouTube (The RSS) this Sunday at 4pm.