CHEF de mission Tun Ahmad Sarji has long been involved in sports as athlete and administrator. His long service as a civil servant and as chief secretary to the government puts him in a position to judge people and look objectively at issues.
He states frankly that spending RM20mil on the Road to London programme cannot be seen as a failure even though it failed to deliver Malaysia’s first Olympic gold medal.
He says one has to invest to reap the benefits. And he believes that the contingent to London have moved a step closer in the hunt for the elusive gold medal.
“Sure a vast amount was spent on the preparations. But the investment has paid off,” he said.
“Today, it isn’t just badminton that can produce medals but diving as well. Cycling and archery are also getting in the mix with good showings.
“I would say that these Games have brought closer to our dream of Olympic gold. There has been improvement and we are moving forward.
“Everything comes with proper planning and we have to ensure that we have invested the money correctly. Was the RM20mil spent on just these nine sports or was there a bigger pool to start with?
“One can equate the money spent to what has been achieved here. This is a tremendous result for us, one that promises much for the future.
“There are some issues which affect all the sports here in London. The lack of funding.
The need for high quality coaches. Proper exposure for the athletes. These cannot be emphasised enough. In many instances, we lost due to the inexperience of the athletes.
“Winning the silver medal through Lee Chong Wei in badminton and the bronze through Pandelela Rinong in diving is a step forward for me. We have matched our best efforts of 1996.
“Is it enough? Of course not. We want to win the gold. That’s the ultimate target. When we left Malaysia, I said we would win medals but that was not important as long as we can compete with the best.
“We have achieved that. The support shown to our medal winners indicate that the people accept that we have tried our best.
“I’m sure we will win a gold medal soon. We are heading in the right direction.
“Let’s continue to invest in our sports and develop talent at a faster rate. God willing, we will succeed at the next Games.”
Below, Ahmad Sarji evaluates the performances of the sports that took part in London.
They delivered a silver medal and it could have so easily have been a gold. Lee Chong Wei played his heart out but it was still not enough. We can’t fault his commitment or determination.
The doubles pair of Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Hoong did well to reach the semi-finals and we could have won a medal. But their game in the bronze playoff was a little disappointing. Overall, badminton did what they had come to do – win a medal.
We had been told that they were a medal prospect and Pandelela Rinong won the bronze to prove it. Yeoh Ken Nee also showed his mettle by qualifying for the final. Diving is a success but we didn’t do as well as expected in the synchronised events.
The divers need more exposure at world level and there’s need to inject more funding to help them. This is a sport we can really excel in.
This is a sport that promised so much but came away without a medal. But it wasn’t from a lack of trying. Azizulhasni Awang is the great hope for the future and has some way to go yet. With a little luck, he could have won a medal in the keirin.
Again, the cyclists need more exposure to higher levels of competitions on a regular basis. For example, Fateha Mustapha was not able to get to the final although she was expected to be a medallist. Experience does count.
I came away impressed with the archers, not just Khairul Anuar, but the whole team. Khairul did well to make the quarter-final.
The archers have to be given more attention as they have the determination to succeed. There is always an element of luck as well as form on competition day.
But if they are well prepared we can be sure that they will be up there fighting for medals. They too need more exposure. This seems to be a major issue with all the sports.
This was a surprise qualifier but I must say that Yu Peng Kean was impressive although he lost in the second round to eventual gold medal winner Aron Szilagvi of Hungary.
He was clearly new at this level and it showed. He has talent and, unless we are willing to invest in the sport, such talent will be wasted. Fencing is another sport we can excel in with the right programme. It should be given attention.
We had one pool swimmer in Khoo Cai Lin but she was out of her league here.
But in the open swimming marathon we have to give more attention to Heidi Gan as she is improving fast. She is now ranked 16th in the world. That is a good place to start since this is a new event for Malaysia. Her performance should encourage others to take it up as well.
She enjoyed her swim here and I believe that she can improve further. I’m not sure what sort of competitions there are for her to compete but we must allow her to develop further.
Nur Suryani Taibi was eight months pregnant but she fared well enough to finish in 34th position out of 58 participants. So there is talent there. She qualified on merit for the Games and that means we need to look at making her a medal prospect. This is another sport that must be given greater attention.
I don’t know much about this sport but Khairulnizam Efendy tried hard under the circumstances. I’m told the Laser event is new to him but he has the potential to make it. He is young and the day that I saw him in action in Weymouth, he gave me the impression that he is determined to succeed as well.
The less said the better. Lee Hup Wei and Norseela Khalid were wild card entries and we really did not expect much from them. They fared badly so, perhaps, younger athletes should be picked next time.