Despite facing criticism, Hannah Yeoh says she has paved the way for Malaysia to win more sports medals.

KUALA LUMPUR, April 5 — Hannah Yeoh has faced some criticism for her performance as Minister of Youth and Sports, but she has announced plans for sports development that could one day appease a country hungry for international success. He said he has laid the foundation.

Yeo, who once admitted that overseeing the development of the sport was outside his comfort zone, was partly responsible for Malaysia’s lack of medals at last year’s Southeast Asian Games and Asian Games.

The Malaysian team won 175 medals at the last Games, but fell short of their goal of 40 gold medals. Still, the Asian Games team exceeded expectations in what is considered a much more prestigious competition, winning 30 medals, including six gold and eight silver, three more than the target.

In sports, success is usually defined by the number of medals won by a country. However, Yeo believes relying solely on that metric as the basis for criticism tends to oversimplify the complex debate surrounding the development of sport.

According to the minister, one of the main factors contributing to Malaysia’s declining position in the sports world is the lack of athletes competing in medal-winning sports such as swimming, athletics and martial arts.

“Critics will look at last year’s SEA Games and the Asian Games and say you guys haven’t done anything,” Yeo said in an interview. malay mail recently in her parliamentary office.

“But to solve problems like this, the problem of widening the pool (of athletes) means we have to make efforts to increase access to sports facilities, which is only 24 months away. Or can it be developed in 36 months?

“This is the impatience that I feel people need to understand that when you want to repair an ecosystem, it takes time. But we’re not sitting around doing nothing. ”

Sengambuto said the current priority was to stimulate grassroots interest in athletics and swimming, although he acknowledged that training facilities for both sports are limited. To overcome that, Ms Yeo said she had initiated a policy to give free public access to existing sports facilities owned by the NSC or local councils. — Photo: Yusof Mat Isa

new focus

Swimming and athletics are among the most popular individual sports globally and Mr Yeo said these will be the new main focus areas of the National Sports Council (NSC) under Mr Yeo’s management. Stated.

Malaysia already has talented athletes competing in these sports at the top level, but their numbers are low as successive governments have invested millions of ringgit in favor of team sports such as football, rugby and hockey. .

Sengambuto said the current priority was to stimulate grassroots interest in athletics and swimming, although he acknowledged that training facilities for both sports are limited.

To overcome that, Ms Yeo said she had initiated a policy to give free public access to existing sports facilities owned by the NSC or local councils.

One of the most notable programs is free swimming classes for children, which Mr Yeo hopes will encourage them to develop an interest in swimming from an early age. The program also aims to remove class barriers. Swimming remains primarily a sport for wealthy families due to access to both pools and swimming classes.

“International schools have pools and lessons. To solve this problem (low number of swimmers), we don’t want to rely only on high-income families to develop swimmers. What about low-income families? ”

“I believe that maybe one day an Olympic gold medal winner will be chosen from among the young swimmers from low-income families that we are currently developing,” she said, adding that the program at the elementary school level He added that he is considering introducing the

“I think this will expand our pool of potential talent.”

The third notable sport is martial arts. Mr Yeoh cited the number of outstanding Malaysian-Indian karate athletes and said Malaysia’s multi-ethnic population was a strength the country could draw on. Malaysia’s Arif Afifuddin Abu Malik won the gold medal in the under-84kg kumite (brown belt) category at last year’s Hangzhou Asian Games.

“Why martial arts? Well, we are good at it. Silat brought us medals. Martial arts also brought us medals, and karate too,” she said with the SEA Games. He talked about both Asian Games.

“That is the strength of a diverse country like Malaysia. We should capitalize on that.”

Mr Yeo said the programs developed to date have been designed to develop a new focus for sport at the grassroots level, without changing the already focused development plans for the sport sector, given limited budgets. He said that it was a “first aid measure” to prevent this. Road to Gold Program. — Photo: Yusof Mat Isa

limited budget

Still, Yeo acknowledged that developing elite-level athletes in these three sports will require more than a typical social program. This meant more money was being poured into infrastructure, facilities and world-class trainers, which can be expensive.

The Ministry of Youth and Sports received just RM1 billion in the 2024 budget, a small amount compared to what other ministries receive. More than 60% of this amount goes towards operating costs and only RM460 million is spent on program and infrastructure development.

Ms Yeo said the programs she has developed so far have focused on sport at the grassroots level, without changing the already focused development plans for the sport sector, given limited budgets. He said it was a “quick fix” to develop a new field. Road to Gold (RTG) Program.

The RTG is one of the policies endorsed by Mr Yeo to “fast-track” the development of elite athletes with the potential to win Malaysia’s first Olympic gold medal, and one of the program’s biggest hopes is the Asian Games squash The winner is Sivasangari Subramaniam.

Yeo said budget was also the most important factor behind the decision to focus on these three sports. In addition to swimming, facilities for track and field and martial arts are inexpensive.

“We have a lot of developments for team sports. Yes, they are important and we will continue to focus on that, but we have to be realistic. You only get a few medals,” she said.

“That’s why I’m saying let’s look at individual sports as well. Sports don’t cost money. That’s why we’re refocusing.”

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