Selangor Journal
31st Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games 31) logo. — Picture via FACEBOOK

Hanoi SEA Games a harbinger of future of Malaysian sports

HANOI, May 11 — The 31st SEA Games, set to officially begin here tomorrow, will not only be a big testament for the national athletes vying for success but is also going to set the national contingent’s projections for the Paris 2024 Olympics.

After the Covid-19 pandemic halted the local and international sporting scenes for almost two years since early 2020, the momentum gained from the SEA Games is expected to be carried forward in the upcoming major multi-sport Games.

This is crucial as close to 58 per cent, or 338 of the 584 Malaysian athletes are first-timers in the biennial Games, who are set to seek their first exposure on the international stage.

Whether a memorable success, a moderate outing or a crestfallen one, the investment made in Malaysian sports and the future predictions will be known by the closing ceremony of the Hanoi Games, delayed a year by Covid-19, on May 23.

The SEA Games will serve as the launchpad for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games in two months’ time and the recently postponed Hangzhou 2022 Asian Games, before the Paris 2024 mission to bring home the elusive Olympic gold.

Malaysia will be gunning for 36 gold, 35 silver and 75 bronze for a total of 146 medals targeted, which is deemed very low compared to the number of athletes in the contingent sent, while more than half of the sports offered are Olympic sports.

Vietnam is offering 526 gold medals comprising 40 sports in the 31st edition of the SEA Games to be held in Hanoi and 11 provinces surrounding the capital city, with about 10,000 athletes from 11 Southeast Asian countries expected to showcase their talents.

Based on the 36-gold medal target set by the National Sports Council (NSC), Malaysia is only targeting about 6.8 per cent of the gold medals at stake in Hanoi.

At the previous SEA Games in the Philippines three years ago, Malaysia won 56 of 531 gold offered, which is about 10.5 per cent, while in the 2017 KL edition, Malaysia emerged overall winners after bagging the lion’s share, 35.7 per cent (145 of 406) of gold medals offered, thanks to home ground advantage.

When the last time Vietnam hosted the SEA Games in 2003, Malaysia finished fifth with 44 gold, 42 silver and 59 bronze medals, equivalent to about 10 per cent of the 444 gold medals at stake then.

Malaysia also has always been among the top five finishers in the biennial Games, except for one sixth-place finish in the 1983 Singapore edition.

Recently, Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu had said, the lower medal target was set because of the difficulty in predicting the real standing of the athletes around the region due to the lack of competitions resulting from the pandemic, and a few of Malaysia’s “gold mine” events are not contested this time around.

He said about 72 medals, (25 gold, 16 silver and 29 bronze) comprising 27 sports and 68 events, won by Malaysia at the Philippines Games, are not on offer in Vietnam, including squash and lawn bowls (4 gold medals each), skating (2), rhythmic gymnastics (3) and breakdance (1).

However, Malaysia is expected to clinch gold medals from 15 types of sports in Hanoi, with the hope that diving and athletics will deliver more than five gold medals each, while taekwondo, wushu, petanque, pencak silat and bodybuilding are the other anticipated sports.

The diving camp has lived up to expectations as they have already bagged six gold, two silver and a bronze medal before the opening ceremony tomorrow night.

Malaysia should be returning with over 50 gold medals to remain in the top five in the overall standings, while the men’s football team are also hoping to fare well and bring back the ‘mother of all medals’ after defeating 16-time champion Thailand in their first group stage match on Saturday.

The hosts Vietnam, who have shown good progress in the past few SEA Games, having won 73, 58 and 98 gold medals respectively from the 2015 to 2019 Games, are sending 951 athletes striving to bag 140 gold (26.6 per cent), 77 silver and 71 bronze medals with the added home ground advantage this time.

With the Malayan Tiger spirit, it is hoped that the national athletes will showcase their best ever outing regardless of their status. Malaysia Boleh!

— Bernama

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