SEA GAMES / ATHLETICS: MAF looks forward – New Straits Times

SEA GAMES / ATHLETICS: MAF looks forward – Other – New Straits Times.

AILURE: President however wants government help to rebuild

MALAYSIAN Athletics Federation (MAF) president Datuk Zainal Abidin Ahmad sought to put a positive spin on the sport’s worst achievement in Sea Games history.

Malaysia’s final tally of four gold, six silver and three bronze was worse than the previous low of 4-7-16 in 1975 but Zainal preferred to look on the positive side of things.

Thailand finished the competition with 17 gold medals, followed by Vietnam (10), Indonesia and the Philippines (six each), Malaysia (four) and Myanmar and Singapore (two each).

Though Malaysian athletics’ slide began before Zainal took over as MAF president, he declined to put the blame on anyone after failing to meet their pre-Games target of five gold medals.

“There is no one to blame,” he said at the conclusion of the athletics programme on Thursday. “We didn’t do it (achieve target) but we got four gold medals and this is coming from out of the depths.

“We have six silver medals and several near misses which could have turned into gold. We had a very young team here and the young athletes showed they are on the way up with four national records.

“In 2015, we will show what we can do. We are rebuilding athletics and we were not outclassed, just left behind.”

Zainal said Malaysian athletics is paying the price for failing to move forward since the country last hosted the Games in 2001.

“You look at Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam and where are we? We have stagnated while the others have progressed.

“MAF cannot do this alone. We are volunteers and we need government help and support in terms of funding and facilities.

“Don’t tell me we can’t use the National Stadium for athletics and that it is only for football. If that is the case, then build one for athletics.”

Malaysia’s four gold medals came from senior athlete Jironi Riduan (men’s 800m and 1,500m), 18-year-old discus thrower Irfan Shamshuddin and high jumper Nauraj Singh Randhawa, 21.

Irfan also set a new national record along with triple jumper Hakimi Ismail, 22, pole vaulter Iskandar Alwi, 19, and hammer thrower Jackie Wong, 21.

Besides the national records, there were also personal bests for 22-year-old hurdler Raja Nursheena Raja Azhar, hammer thrower Casier Renee Lee, 20, and 200m silver medallist Harith Ammar Sobri, 19.