Source: ‘A wiped-out year’
IT was a subdued season for the local track-and-field athletes as the Covid-19 pandemic wiped out all competitions.
With no competitions, the athletes had a frustrating season as they could only train at their respective centres.
“It was a wiped-out year not only for athletics, but sports in general around the globe.
“The virus also forced the Tokyo Olympics to be postponed to next year (July 23-Aug 8),” said Malaysian Athletics Federation president Datuk S.M. Muthu.
“Our athletes have yet to qualify on merit for next year’s re-scheduled Olympics. However, high jumper Lee Hup Wei may earn a wild card for the Tokyo Games.”
The 33-year-old Hup Wei is ranked 17th in the world in his discipline and is likely to earn a wild card for his third appearance at the Olympics after Beijing (2008) and London (2012).
“We could not do anything this year except placing our athletes in training camps while waiting for the pandemic to ease. However, the season just went by without any good news,” said Muthu.
It was a ‘scary’ experience for hammer thrower Jackie Wong as he was down with Covid-19 in March.
After nine tests and 70 days in isolation, Jackie was finally discharged from the Sibu Hospital in Sarawak.
It caused panic in Bukit Jalil as 48 individuals, comprising athletes and officials, came in contact with Jackie before he was tested positive for Covid-19.
However, they were tested negative. Among those tested were hammer coach Gu Yuan and Jackie’s sister, Grace Wong, also a national athlete.
“Hopefully, things will return to normal next year. We have planned several competitions next season, which will take place under strict guidelines.
“Our athletes need competitions to regain their form and confidence,” said Muthu.
The MAF want to start the year with a few meets inside of three months.
“The plan is to have at least one or two meets by the first quarter of the year (March) during the Olympic qualifying period.
Among the priority competitions next season are the Asian Junior Athletics Championships, the Malaysia Games and the Vietnam Sea Games.
“We have advised our junior athletes to keep themselves fit ahead of both meets. Tentatively, the best athletes from the Malaysia Games will be picked for the Asian meet.
“The Asian Athletics Association have yet to confirm the dates for the Asian meet next year. We hope it would be finalised soon as next year will be cramped with many competitions due to the pandemic.
In the 2018 Asian Juniors in Japan, Malaysia bagged bronze medals in the 100m (Zulfiqar Ismail) and 4x400m (Luqmanul Hakim Khairul Akmal, Ilham Suhami, Safwan Saifuddin and Abdul Wafiy Roslan) events.
“The priority until June next year is to give our athletes the opportunity to qualify for the Olympics.
“We plan to organise the Malaysian Open in the first quarter of next season,” he added.
The Olympics qualifying period for athletics ends on June 29.