AS the country’s 4x400m men’s quartet received their long-awaited Sea Games gold medals, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced the doubling of incentives for gold medal winners at the next edition in 2013.
Najib, however, urged national athletes not to be satisfied at merely becoming regional champions after returning home with 59 gold medals from Jakarta and Palembang last month and aim for success at continental and world levels.
With that came a note of caution as the prime minister warned under-performing sport officials not to hinder the progress of sports and to step down if they are no longer able to contribute.
“Sport has the ability to lift the spirits of an entire nation and that is why the government has been fully supportive of efforts to achieve success in sport. While we are very proud of the achievements of our athletes at the Sea Games, they must use this success as building blocks or a launching pad to even bigger success.
“We must look at how we can work hard and more effectively to develop our back-up athletes through systematic training programmes. There must be an entire ecosystem to support the development of sport.
“The progress of an athlete is a long journey that entails great sacrifices and hours of training. We must provide the best ecosystem to allow these athletes to achieve bigger success and to make Malaysia a world powerhouse in sport,” said Najib in his address to the 91 athletes who helped Malaysia win 59 gold medals to finish fourth in the medal tally at the Juara Stadium in Bukit Kiara yesterday.
A total of RM630,000 was given out to the gold medal winners under the Sport Incentive Scheme but the figure does not include the additional RM3,000 to each athlete in team sports which Najib announced yesterday along with the increase of the first gold medal incentive from RM10,000 to RM20,000 for the 2013 Myanmar Sea Games.
“In addition to the RM30 million which the government has allocated for sports recently, we have decided to revise the incentives for the Sea Games gold medal winners.
“All athletes in team sports who have received RM2,000 will now get RM5,000, including those who won at the recent Sea Games. For the next Sea Games, the first gold medal for each individual athlete is worth RM20,000 and RM10,000 for each subsequent gold medal.
“This has been done to provide a boost to athletes to ensure future success,” added Najib, who later presented the gold medals to 4x400m athletes Yunus Lasalleh, S. Kannathasan, P. Yuvaraaj and Schzuan Ahmad Rosely.
The quarter, who travelled to the Sea Games under Category B where they were privately funded, did not receive their medals in Palembang after being put on a flight home the next day just hours before the medal ceremony.
The poor treatment of the four athletes by the Malaysian Athletic Union drew a rebuke from Najib, who warned sport officials to shape up or ship out.
“The government has provided massive funding for sport but poor and careless leadership in sport associations threatens our hope for success in sport. To these officials, I say tepuk dada, tanya selera because the hope of the rakyat is on your shoulders,” Najib warned.
Najib also praised the football team for defending the gold medal under intense pressure and conditions in Jakarta and said their success brought unbridled happiness to the nation.
Source : New Straits Times