From Lazarus Rokk
Conceptualising – when foresight and hindsight lie in easy abandonment – can spare us the awkwardness and discomfiture of continued failure, the tedium of rectifying mistakes we haven’t learnt from, and the frivolity of investing huge premiums on dubious decisions.
History will inform the discerning Malaysian that we have invested huge amounts of taxpayers’ money on fashioning solutions on measures that have constantly and consistently failed to provide the desired results.
In fact, we do not need to traverse the dusty and murky passages of Malaysian sports history, to discover our weaknesses. It is all there staring us in our colourful and coloured faces, everything so unmistakably manifested in our disinclination to strive for meritocracy and excellence.
Perhaps, now would be the right time again to talk about concepts, or rather in this context, about being appallingly unclear on the concept of setting targets, in this case for the Asian Games at Hangzhou from September 23.
Our erudite sports leaders, I am sure, after having examined the three central factors – reality, probability, and inability — that govern the powers of astute deduction, decided that in this Asiad the target will be 27 medals, regardless of its colour.
In the Jakarta-Palembang Asiad in 2018, the authorities then at least displayed some scrotal gumption by setting a target of seven gold medals, which was amply met by the 417-strong contingent. Now, common sense would dictate that for this Asiad in China, the target should naturally be more than seven gold medals, if we are to apply the concept of progress or advancement, that is.
But even as we traipse through the labyrinth of little minds in search of any semblance of justification for this self-protective decision, did it ever dawn on any of the sports administrators that they are being party to the fast-regressing Malaysian mind and competitive spirit.
We are, and have always been a nation that glorifies mediocrity, retains failures, and turns silver medallists and runners-up into superstars.
Lee Chong Wei should know. He was never a world champion or an Olympic gold medallist, but he is still being hailed as Malaysia’s finest treasure, a work of art. Why, even a movie was made about him – for being second best.
Meanwhile, the best, Nicol Ann David, seven-time squash world champion had to be content with just a portion of that adulation poured onto the No. 2. If squash was in the Olympics during Nicol’s reign, Malaysia wouldn’t have been reduced to waxing lyrical over badminton’s ‘fake gold’.
When Chong Wei won the first singles silver in Beijing 2008, making him the first Malaysian to do so in a singles event, it glittered. But in the profound words of my former sportswriting buddy Johnson Fernandez, in the next two episodes in 2012 and 2016, it was not the silver that Chong Wei had won, but rather the gold that he had lost.
And therein lies our contention. For, as we, the sports journalists of that lost era, have kept raising the bar to hone competitive minds and spirit, the authorities have responded by lowering the bar and glorifying mediocrity.
But this malaise apparently seems to be conspicuously manifested in more critical facets of our Malaysian life, and with devastating effects at that.
Take our education system for instance. Instead of training minds to meet high standards that are competitive by world reckoning, our brilliant educationists not only compromised on teaching standards, they also lowered the passing mark so that the educationally-challenged could get across the finish line along with the gifted.
But what is unfathomable is the rationale of sports administrators to ignore the sporting arena as the only idyllic training ground available to our young Malaysians to develop competitive minds and spirits, when everywhere else they do not get to compete on level playing fields.
So, instead of setting gold medal targets in double digits for the upcoming Asian Games, our shrewd sports administrators believe that by not setting high standards, our athletes will surpass themselves because the weighted element of pressure has been removed from the equation. Really?
We are a country that has been rewarding mediocrity for decades now, making runners-up look like world champions, and we are expecting our athletes to suddenly excel without the element of pressure, and that too in a highly competitive field like the Asiad?
What this beautiful country needs, or is rather clamouring for, is for a multitude of Malaysians with cumulative minds, working in consonance to raise its people from the sub-standards that they have been uncompromisingly thrust into by weak leaders who have thrived by ruling the mediocre.
It is time for Malaysian sportsmen and women to stand up and be counted among the gold medal winners in Hangzhou, when the Games begin this week.
Lazarus Rokk was the Sports Editor at New Straits Times and is an FMT reader.
The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.