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Monday, March 9, 2009

Sunday Guest: Solid base translates to success By : Azizul Hasni Awang

AT long last, I really feel like the top athlete I always wanted to be.

I will start the World Championships in Poland at the end of this month as the World No 1 in the keirin, am the World Cup keirin champion and I have two World Cup gold medals to show for all the effort we've put in for so long.

But I'll always remember that it was never an easy task getting to this level and all the sacrifices I had to make just to get here, which isn't yet what I really want to achieve.

I still don't have a World Championships and Olympic medal to show, but what we've achieved now has at least earned our cycling team some respect, even from the Europeans and those who never thought we could do it.

The respect that we get now isn't the same as what we got three years ago when everybody just saw Malaysia as a small nation with small riders.
I never blamed them for that because even now, only our elite sprints squad has done something really worthy of international recognition.

Even so, for me as a cyclist, I don't see it as an achievement for the entire cycling scene in our country. We've achieved something, but we're not yet an established cycling nation.

To become that, we need to have a solid base right from the grassroots to the back-up and elite squads.

Right now, if we just look at our back-up squads, we don't really have the numbers and the quality yet. This is also due to many of our best cyclists choosing to quit the sport to focus on work or academic pursuits.

This is because the base and structure we have in the country isn't strong enough to sustain a big pool of riders, who can ride at a high level and sustain their involvement in the sport.

The sport loses out because there isn't an industry to keep the riders in the sport, unlike what we've seen in Australia or in Europe.

To start with, only now do we see cycling making inroads into the national schools agenda.

Although not yet fully established, we've waited long enough for cycling to be part of schools in our country, just like football, badminton and other popular sports.

Imagine if this had been done five years ago. We'd now have battalions of junior road and track riders throughout the country.

Grassroots development is the most vital aspect in cycling, the same as any other sport. I know many have said this before, but the reality is, we've not taken it seriously enough in Malaysia.

We need a strong grassroots for the simple reason to build the numbers in our sport. Having the numbers will inevitably make it more competitive and eventually the products will be athletes with higher capabilities.

Once we've established the grassroots, then we must also look at how to market the sport so that it is well supported by the masses and the corporate sector.

I attended the launch of the Road to London 2012 programme in Kuala Lumpur three weeks ago and it gave me some hope that our pursuit of success in the Olympics will receive adequate support.

The elite and high performance programmes can't just rely on the government, because the National Sports Council (NSC) cannot be overly burdened.

This is why there is much importance in bringing corporate sponsorship into the sport to contribute towards growth all round. Otherwise ,development will only rely on programmes run by the NSC.

In Malaysia, the trend is for the corporate sector to jump in and provide sponsorship, for example, just before a big event like the Olympics or Asian Games.

All the years that we go through preparing for the Games, we rely only on what the NSC or government can give us.

Imagine what we could do with an extra push to go further, with expanded budgets to go those extra kilometres in our preparation, to do more races throughout the year.

Not many look at long-term programmes to support athletes over a number of years leading to the Olympics. We need a bigger commitment from the corporate sector in order for our sport and athletes to grow.

And sport isn't just about the Olympics or Asian Games, it is a way of life each and every day.

So, there has to be real professionalism in all these areas if we are going to grow into an established cycling nation, or better still, a sporting nation -- which is my big dream.

3 comments:

apabila jari ayuku menari lentik said...

its easy to be a champion but it is not easy to maintain and defend the championship.

on the way to be a champion,a lot of thing to be done,hardwoking and eager to be a champ must always have in your blood.

hopefully,Insya-Allah you will be the great one.

TJ said...

Bro, you have done Malaysia proud. I just hope your team could start a fund drive or donation funds so you and your team could further make us proud. I'll donate for you, I will.

Peacebuy said...

Salam,

stumbled on your blog moment ago...need permission to republish some excerpts for an article: the underdog DownUnder! in my website GEMPAMELAYU.

By the way, congratulation on your achievements...Keep unleashing your power!!and make us proud:)

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