BY RAJES PAUL
KUALA LUMPUR: Swimming may not be able to make a huge splash as one of the main sports Malaysia if it is not supported with good facilities at the grassroots level.
Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin had recently identified swimming as one of the four core sports which should focus on their development programmes.
The others are cycling, badminton and athletics.
These four sports have not been producing fresh talents for the country and there is an urgent need to form a wider base.
Malaysia also did not have a great outing at the 2013 Sea Games in Myanmar, when the national swimmers only managed to bring home four gold medals, four silvers and three bronzes.
Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) secretary general Datuk Sieh Kok Chi said that it would be worth investing in swimming “but it’ll take a great will to do it”.
“Swimming offers 38 gold medals (at the SEA Games). An outstanding swimmer can single-handedly win five to six gold medals.
Former international Nurul Huda Abdullah used to be multiple medal winner.
“She won seven gold medals in each of the three SEA Games she competed in from 1985 to 1989,” said Kok Chi.
“To achieve that, we must have proper facilities.
“The number one focus should be having ample swimming pools, followed by producing qualified swimming instructors and coaches and organising competitions.”
Kok Chi said that facilities for swimming in schools and rural areas were not up to the mark.
“There are just too few swimming pools to produce a wide base of swimmers to build a strong national team like in Singapore and Hong Kong,” said Kok Chi, who admitted that the huge cost involved in building pools could prove to be a deterrent.
“But smaller pools are not really expensive,” he pointed out.
“In Victoria Institution (VI), I learnt swimming in a smaller pool (25m x15m) but this school has produced many national swimmers and water-polo players.
“It is workable in schools too.
“We can also look at partnerships with condominiun owners to conduct classes for the younger ones. There are also mobile pools that we can look into.”
Kok Chi said that Malaysia can emulate other countries with successful models.
“Hong Kong and Singapore have done well.
“China, Thailand and Vietnam have also improved. Australia, the United States and Japan have good development programmes. Japan has a long tradition and history of challenging the western swimming powers and we, probably, can follow them,” said Kok Chi.
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