By Fadhli Ishak
THE Education Ministry has urged states to follow in the footsteps of Malaysian Schools Sports Council (MSSM) aquatics champions Selangor and ramp up development efforts at the grassroots level.
MSSM aquatics technical and development chairman Mazlan Abdullah said Selangor's supremacy was the result of the tireless efforts of not just athletes, but also coaches and parents.
Selangor took the overall title with an impressive 42 gold, 37 silver and 16 bronze haul and were responsible for bettering six of the 12 new records set.
"We had our doubts (about records being bettered) as a number of star swimmers were already over-aged for this year's tournament," said Mazlan, who has been overseeing the competition since 1998.
"However, swimmers such as Welson Sim (Sarawak) and Selangor's Yap Siew Hui, Rosalind Pang, Benny Ng and their relay teams proved that they have developed into quality swimmers capable of filling the seniors places.
"They (Selangor) deserve to be champions this year as the development they have done at the grassroots level in the state is amazing.
"This year they had over 1,000 swimmers from roughly 100 schools competing in their state level competition (MSSS) which is the largest in the country.
"This makes competition for places within the state very intensive and spurs athletes to train harder and outdo each other which means they are never short of talent."
Mazlan added that other states need to focus on popularising the sport among primary students if they want to catch up.
"If we can replicate what Selangor have done in every state, the sport will be at a very healthy level.
"Besides Selangor, Federal Territories, Sarawak and Sabah also have strong programmes but other states can be just as good if they put in the effort.
"They need to target promoting the sport among primary school students to give the students an adequate amount of time to develop as you cannot expect success to come overnight.
"They also need coaches who are 'crazy' about the sport and are willing to chase after talented swimmers to build up the sport.
"Parents also need to be supportive as these young students cannot be expected to go to training on their own."