Priority to get para-shuttlers into BA of Malaysia’s fold

Dr Naharuddin Hashim holds a “heavy” portfolio. He is the Kelantan BA president and the BA of Malaysia’s para-badminton, anti-doping, and medical committee chairman.

“We actually have loads of work to do!” said Dr Naharuddin, who runs a clinic in Kota Bharu, Kelantan, in jest.

While the committee oversees three important aspects of the sport, Dr Naharuddin’s top priority at the moment is getting para-shuttlers into the national body’s stable.

The 56-year-old is bullish that such a plan will be realised this year. At present, the welfare and training of para-badminton athletes are monitored by the National Sports Council (NSC).

“Discussions have started, and I will be meeting the NSC director-general, Datuk Ahmad Shapawi Ismail. I’m confident things will work out well,” said Dr Naharuddin.

“We want to get everything in order. We don’t want the para-shuttlers to feel like they are second-class athletes. The able-bodied players train at Bukit Kiara, and rightfully, the para-athletes should train there, too.

Dr Naharuddin says BAM wants the para shuttlers to be part of its fold.

Dr Naharuddin admitted there were several challenges, including the need to secure funds for these athletes.

“We hope that the NSC will sponsor these athletes for a year or two… That will give us some breathing space to allocate funds for the para-athletes. We can then sustain and stand on our own.”

He added that his committee was also looking at a blueprint that will run through 2030.

“We just want to make sure para-badminton is on the right path, at the same level as able-bodied athletes.

“I’m not saying that what is being done at present is not good enough, but scouting and nurturing para-shuttlers should also be the responsibility of the state badminton associations. They have the facilities and the technical support.”

Dr Naharuddin said he will be meeting with Ahmad Shapawi soon to confirm the plan, moving forward.

He added that once the move takes place, Malaysia plans to host an international para-badminton tournament, next year. Dr Naharuddin, however, is mindful of Malaysia’s stand on not allowing Israeli athletes entering the country, and that it would pose a problem if a para-athlete from the Jewish state makes the cut to the tournament.

Malaysia came under the spotlight in 2019 when the government banned Israeli para-athletes from competing in the 9th World Para-Swimming Championships in Kuching, Sarawak.

The move resulted in the International Paralympic Committee stripping Malaysia of the right to host the event – which would have been the largest sporting event held in the country just before the Covid-19 pandemic hit.

“For me, this is not supposed to be an issue. It’s sports, it’s about bringing people together.

“We will still try (to host the event).”

Dr Naharuddin added there were many other issues faced by para-shuttlers, with funding being the main one.

“There’s a lot of issues behind the scenes. Funding (for para-shuttlers) have been cut. We have to fight for them.

“Although they are not under BAM yet, we need to do it (fight for them).”

As for medical, Dr Naharuddin said he preferred the ‘prevention is better than cure’ approach.

“Also, Malaysia needs to look at nations like Japan, South Korea, and even Thailand. They use sports science heavily. We have the facilities, but we don’t have the manpower.

“We should go all out. After all, badminton is Malaysia’s number one sport, and our athletes perform on the international stage and win medals,” he added.

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