‘Road to Gold’ unveiled, with hopes of able to withstand political upheavals, win Olympic gold

“The same old approach will produce the same old results.”

Those were the words of Malaysian cyclist Datuk Azizulhasni Awang who will compete in what could be his last Olympics, in Paris next year.

Azizulhasni shared his view just as Malaysia launched yet another elite sports programme in its quest to win the elusive Olympic gold medal.

Widely known as ‘Paris Gold’ earlier, the ‘Road to Gold’ programme was introduced to members of the press at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil, Kuala Lumpur, this afternoon.

The programme is said to be a “long-term roadmap” for the Paris 2024 and the Los Angeles 2028 Games.

Malaysia has initiated a series of sports programmes since ‘Jaya ‘98’, ahead of the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur. Yet, none of the athletes from this Southeast Asian nation has ever stood at the top of the podium at the Summer Games.

Despite the successful ‘Jaya ‘98’ programme, Malaysia did not win a single medal at the 2000, and 2004 Olympics.

This time around, the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) will play a more prominent role.

“Each time there is a change in government, it affects our mid-term and long-term goals,” said OCM president, Tan Sri Norza Zakaria, who is co-chair of the ‘Road to Gold’ programme.

“With this programme, even if there are changes in government, at least the new minister and OCM will be there,” he added.

The other co-chair is Youth and Sports Minister, Hannah Yeoh.

Malaysia went through a period of political instability after the 14th General Election, which saw four prime ministers in office, since 2020.

In the 15th General Election held last Nov 19, a so-called unity government was formed. Some wonder if it will serve a full term.

“This programme will strengthen the Podium Programme. We will shortlist our medal prospects. As we see it now, roughly, it’s Azizulhasni, and (men’s doubles shuttlers) Aaron Chia-Soh Wooi Yik. Then, we have to look at athletes ranked in the Top 10 (of their respective sports). It’s rather premature for us to announce a list,” Norza said.

He added that a detailed evaluation was important.

What is also unclear is the budget that will be set aside for the new programme, given that the recently-tabled Budget 2023 has yet to be passed.

Norza went on to say that this was a “pro-active and brave move” of realising the nation’s vision of getting the gold medal.

Malaysia Football League (MFL) chief executive officer Stuart Michael Ramalingam was named the ‘Road to Gold’ project coordinator. He will be assisted by Akademi Badminton Malaysia (ABM) chief executive officer, Michelle Chai.

Stuart and Chai will remain with MFL and ABM throughout the duration. Stuart admitted it was a “huge task”, but added he was committed to giving his all.

Former shuttler Datuk Lee Chong Wei, ex-hockey international Datuk Mirnawan Nawawi and ex-squash queen Datuk Nicol David, are part of the committee.

Stuart’s possible appointment, and that of Lee, Mirnawan and Nicol’s, was first highlighted by Twentytwo13 on March 3.

Stuart, who is widely regarded as a commercial man, was brought in to create strategic partnerships with corporate sectors for them to be a part of this national project.

According to Yeoh, Stuart was a “suitable candidate”, as the task also involved creating strategic collaborations with stakeholders.

Datuk Hamidin Amin, the FA of Malaysia president and Olympic Council of Malaysia deputy president, will be the Chef de Mission (CDM) for the national contingent at the Summer Games next year.

For the record, Malaysian football has only made it to the Olympics twice – in 1972 and 1980. These days, the national team continues to struggle at the Southeast Asian level.

Nicol, who has for years, been fighting for squash to be included in the Summer Games, will finally get to be a part of the Olympic movement as an official after she was named deputy CDM.

According to Yeoh, the appointments were on a “volunteer basis”.

Yeoh said the ‘Road to Gold’ programme will strengthen the existing Podium Programme.

“This is a committee that went through an extensive consultation process. We have brought in all the relevant stakeholders, including Azizulhasni, who is an athlete.

“In this entire committee, I’m the only politician,” she added.

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