Kuala Lumpur: National para athletics chief coach R. Jaganathan believes that it will take about a year for his charges to get back to their best form following the long layoff caused by Movement Control Order (MCO) to curb the spread of COVID-19. “Now, they are only doing core muscle workouts. I am monitoring their training online. Proper training must start with four months of conditioning, followed by three months of specific training and competitions,” he told Bernama today. Which is why he must be happy that this year’s Asean Para Games (APG) is likely to be cancelled after the Philippines decided to scrap all sporting events for 2020, leaving only next year’s Malaysia Games (Sukma) in April and the Tokyo Paralympics in August being the main focus for the national para athletics squad.
Nonetheless, Jaganathan, who has close to 40 years of experience in coaching both able-bodied and para athletes, is expecting a tough time motivating his charges to get back to winning ways. Apart from getting them back into tip-top shape physically, he also faces the daunting task of having to build up their mental strength again. “It’s not the same when it comes to training able-bodied athletes and para athletes. On top of that, the motivation level of para athletes is now very low. It will require a lot of time, effort and patience to motivate them again, compared to able-bodied athletes. “The pandemic has halted all our preparations and plans… We were on track in terms of our preparations for the APG and the Tokyo Paralympics. But now, we need to start all over again from scratch,” said Jaganathan, who coached M. Ramachandran — the former middle distance king and national record holder in 5,000m and 10,000m for over two decades — before taking up the para job in 2001.
For now, Jaganathan said his national para athletics squad would continue to work out at home as he expects full training to only resume in June, the earliest. Although the government has allowed non-contact sports, like jogging, cycling and badminton in small group, to go ahead under the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) implemented since Monday, national athletes are still waiting for guidelines and the green light from the National Sports Council (NSC) and National Sports Institute (NSI). Meanwhile Jaganathan is keeping his fingers crossed that at least four more para athletes will make the cut for the Tokyo Paralympics although two qualifying tournaments — the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Grand Prix scheduled to be held in Italy and France this month — have been postponed due to the pandemic. So far, four para athletes — Mohamad Ridzuan Mohamad Puzi (100m T36), Muhammad Ziyad Zolkefli (shot put F20), Abdul Latif Romly (long jump F20) and Jonathan Wong Kar Gee (long jump T12) — have qualified for the Tokyo Paralympics after winning medals at the 2019 World Para Athletics Championships in Dubai.
At the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, only the athletics squad returned home with medals, with Mohamad Ridzuan, Muhammad Ziyad and Abdul Latif winning gold medals. Mohamad Ridzuan also made history by winning the country’s first gold.