James: Representing country more important than monetary rewards

PETALING JAYA: The road to Tokyo 2020 starts now with effective training programmes and public backing, besides financial incentives for those who raise the Jalur Gemilang.

Source: James: Representing country more important than monetary rewards

PETALING JAYA: The road to Tokyo 2020 starts now with effective training programmes and public backing, besides financial incentives for those who raise the Jalur Gemilang.

While the National Sports Council’s (NSC) scheme offers an attractive RM1mil for an Olympic gold medal, former national shuttler and coach Datuk James Selvaraj said it was most important for athletes to “bear the country’s flag on their chest, play for the country and bring a medal home.”

“At the end of the day, players shouldn’t think of RM1mil or RM300,000. Representing the country is the most important thing compared to anything else,” said James, the 1978 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist who was part of the 1976 Thomas Cup team that came in second.

Speaking about badminton, he said an effective programme to develop new talent was essential.

He said he had always believed what Olympic Council of Malaysia president Tunku Tan Sri Imran Tuanku Jaafar said in 2008 – to win a gold, it had to be in mixed doubles.

“Only this time after eight years, we were seeing promising results. We have formidable doubles pairs,” he said.

James, who led the Malaysian badminton team to the London Olympics in 2012 as the high performance director, said younger pla­yers with good potential to win medals in 2020 include the mixed doubles pair of Tan Kian Meng and Lai Pei Jing, aged 22 and 24 respectively; as well as 16-year-old women’s singles ace Goh Jin Wei.

He said it was sad that there was still no men’s singles player now who could replace Datuk Lee Chong Wei but Malaysia could count on the men’s doubles, mixed doubles and women’s singles.

Former sprinter Tan Sri Dr M. Jegathesan said Malaysia must now prepare athletes and develop second liners to replace seniors who would retire by 2020.

The focus should also be to develop talents in other sports with global recognition such as in track and field and swimming.

“If what we are looking for is global recognition, then we need to pay more attention to high impact events where sometimes more than 60 countries compete for a single medal,” he said.

Malaysia should also not lose sight of developing athletes who have the potential to shine at a regional level.

There are three major sporting events – the SEA Games next year as well as the Asian and Commonwealth Games in 2018 – that will build up to the Tokyo Olympics.

“If we have athletes who may not be able to win Olympic gold but can shine at Asian or Commonwealth level, we should not let their talent go to waste,” said Dr Jegathesan, who still holds the longest-standing national athletics record of 20.92s for the 200m event he set in the semi-finals of the 1968 Mexico Olympics.

Datuk Dr Ramlan Abdul Aziz, a senior sports medicine consultant and advisor to the Youth and Sports Minister, said preparing an athlete for the 2020 Olympics starts with meticulous planning for each individual.

“Each athlete’s training programme, competitions, and even their education and lifestyle needs have to be looked into great detail because compromise will eventually affect the outcome of performance,” he said.