By RAJES PAUL
PETALING JAYA: It looks like there will be light at the end of the tunnel for our Road to Tokyo athletes.
Plans are now being put in place for the athletes to begin training in the first week of June after the Hari Raya celebrations.
The plan to assist the Tokyo-bound athletes was decided after a meeting initiated by the Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Reezal Merican Naina Merican with all the stakeholders involved in the Road to Tokyo programme via a video conference yesterday.
It was Reezal’s first meeting with the sports administrators gearing up for next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo from July 23-Aug 8 and Paralympics from Aug 24-Sept 5.
Also present were Olympic Council of Malaysia president Datuk Seri Norza Zakaria, Paralympic Council of Malaysia president Datuk Seri Megat D. Shahriman Zaharudin, National Sports Council (NSC) director general Datuk Ahmad Shapawi Ismail and chef de mission Lee Chong Wei.
However, the proposal will be subjected to approval from the National Security Council and the Health Ministry.
National Sports Associations requiring special training facilities for their athletes involved in the Road to Tokyo programme have been asked to submit their applications.
“I will submit their applications for high-performance sports facilities to the special ministerial meeting chaired by Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob after Hari Raya Aidilfitri,” he added.
Reezal said this applied to the Road to Tokyo athletes who needed specific facilities like badminton courts, swimming pools and gymnasiums.
“We will of course, assess the situation at that time.”
He said the NSC and the National Sports Institute have been instructed to look into the standard operating procedure (SOP) for all athletes.
“For elite athletes in centralised training, we need to have a proper SOP. They must be given access to the facilities but they must operate in a safe environment,” he added.
Currently, under the conditional MCO, there are different restrictions for different sports. Sports that are allowed to be practised outdoors are golf, athletics, cycling, badminton while other sports, like football, are not allowed to compete or train together to avoid body contact.
“For some, they can’t practise but there are opportunities to expand their training programmes. We’ve asked all the coaches and officials to look into ways for them to train and adhere to all the safety rules,” he added.