As criticism continues to mount on the Podium Programme, its director Tim Newenham handed his resignation letter to Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman earlier today.
Newenham insisted it was “the honourable thing to do” as he claimed responsibility for the poor outing of the national athletes under the programme which resulted in the national contingent failing to achieve the target of a top 10 position set by him and his team for the Commonwealth Games in April and the just-concluded Asian Games.
Malaysia won seven gold medals at both Games, which were deemed forgettable by many.
The Englishman, who is expected to attend several more meetings with stakeholders before leaving the country, shares his thoughts with Twentytwo13.
What brought about your resignation?
“We won the seven golds set by (previous Youth and Sports Minister) Khairy Jamaluddin at the Commonwealth Games (in April) and by Syed Saddiq at the Asian Games but we still didn’t get into the top 10 (for both Games). It is the right and honourable thing to do.”
I’m sure your phone has been buzzing since the resignation.
“Oh my goodness, it’s been quite overwhelming. People have been very kind. I suppose because I worked closely with them and the athletes and there have been some very difficult situations to work through, sometimes it’s just life, sometimes sports injuries.
The messages I’ve had were quite lovely. But this is sports. We all have a job to do, we all have missions.
This has been a wonderful experience … it has been joyful working with the athletes who have the potential of going even further. It’s a lovely country, lovely people, I love the makan (laughs), I love the climate. The best thing is the athletes have the potential to go even further. We have six, seven world champions and over 30 athletes who are in the world top six. The people I’ve worked with, recruited, colleagues in different organisations have been fun.”
Could you explain Dr P. Vella Pandian’s role?
“Dr Vella was placed under me three months ago. I’m the director of Podium, he is head of Podium.”
Why is information regarding the Podium Programme ‘missing’ from the National Sports Institute’s website?
“I was informed about it three days ago. I don’t know why and I don’t know much about it. I’m not in charge of that. Someone told me some information – the staff chart – was missing from the website. Maybe IT is updating it as Dr Vella wasn’t on the chart … but yeah, he works under me.”
If there was one thing you would like to change, what would it be?
“To keep consistent and purity in the mission – which is to focus on the athletes and coaches that support them. It has to be about the athletes and their performances. I would say there is a risk of things getting into people’s agenda – politics – you know there are risks of things getting in the way.
If I were to change one thing … it is to keep the focus on what we are about.
We are about bringing the best out of the athletes we are working with and we do that by employing the best staff from wherever they are, local or foreign. Sports is beautiful because we don’t look at differences, we work as a team.
So keep the focus on the athletes. That’s the mission for every country, not just Malaysia.”