Dropping of targeted athletics events will defeat aim of hosting Sea Games, say former Olympians

Source: Dropping of targeted athletics events will defeat aim of hosting Sea Games, say former Olympians

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 26 — Former ace sprinter Tan Sri Dr M. Jegathesan feels the decision of the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) to drop eight events from the 2017 Sea Games athletics programme will disappoint athletes and athletics as a whole.

“It will be a major disappointment for athletes training for the events. They (athletes) now would have no opportunity to be a part of the regional games.

“Whether they are going to win or not does not matter because they are now going to miss the opportunity. They may create surprises if given a chance,” Jegathesan, who is also known as the “flying doctor” told Bernama.

OCM president Tan Sri Tunku Imran Tuanku Jaafar after chairing the Sea Games technical committee meeting last week announced that eight events had been omitted from the provisional list of 34 sports and 342 events for the 2017 Sea Games.

The events are men’s and women’s marathon, 10,000m and 3,000m steeplechase, as well as decathlon and heptathlon.

The decision subsequently triggered controversy as the Asian Athletics Association (AAA) said it would not sanction athletics events if Malaysia did not host all the 44 men’s and women’s events.

Asked about the possibility of an appeal to the AAA to go ahead with the omitted events, Jegathesan, the former deputy president of OCM, said Masoc (the Malaysian Sea Games Organising Committee) can do so with strong reasons.

“I believe it may be part of their (AAA) rule to protect the games, because organisations like AAA are guardians of athletics… Anybody can appeal, all organisations allow appeals but they will expect strong arguments.

“It is up to you to convince them, whether they are convinced or not it’s another story,” said Jegathesan, who competed in three consecutive Olympics in Rome (1960), Tokyo (1964) and Mexico (1968).

Another former athletics great who represented the country at the 1964 Tokyo and 1968 Mexico Olympics, Datuk Nashatar Singh, feels the action was tantamount to changing the original objective of organising the biennial games.

“The original aim of the Sea Games was to get together, mingle and come to know each other from different countries. It is not about how many gold medals you win or lose.

“If you think you do not have good runners in these events, you cannot drop it, you still have to keep the events. The events have never been taken out in all these years since way back in 1959. If you cannot win means so what, you still organise the event, nothing wrong,” said the 1966 Commonwealth Games javelin gold medallist.

Nashatar, who was the 1998 Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games operations director, also questioned the necessity to drop the events even though the events were hosted during the Commonwealth Games despite not having runners that time.

“The Malaysian Sea Games Organising Committee or Malaysia Athletic Federation (MAF) have to apply for permit to host the athletics events for the Sea Games. The conditions will be that they must hold all 44 athletic events,” honorary secretary Maurice Nicholas when contacted in Singapore told Bernama.

“Please remember that all athletes from Southeast Asia countries have been training for the games and therefore, we should not deny any athlete by cancelling events,” he said.

The 38 events listed in athletics are 12 field events, namely men’s and women’s high jump, long jump, triple jump, pole vault, shot put, discuss, hammer throw and javelin.

The 22 track events are men’s and women’s 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m, 1,500m, 5,000m, 4x100m relay, 4x400m relay and 400m hurdles; 110m men’s hurdles, 100m women’s hurdles, 20km men’s walk and 10km women’s walk.

Malaysia did not win any medals in the eight omitted events in the 2013 Myanmar and 2015 Singapore editions.

The final list of sports and events to be contested at the 2017 Kuala Lumpur SEA Games will be announced at the second SEAGF Council meeting on July 13-14.

The 2017 Sea Games, scheduled from August 19-31, will be Malaysia’s sixth time hosting the biggest sporting event in Southeast Asia after 1965, 1971, 1977, 1989 and 2001.

What if Brunei who have not won any gold medals in athletics host the Games, can they omit all the events from athletics? — Bernama

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