KUALA LUMPUR: Sukma XIV competition ended here yesterday with the Sarawak contingent capturing only two gold, four silver and eight bronze medals for a total haul of 14 medals to finish in 12th placing out of 14 teams.
It was the worst outing ever for Sarawak in its Sukma history ever since it finished as three-time consecutive overall champions in 1990 (Sarawak), 1992 (Johor) and 1994 (Perak), and seven times runners-up in 1988 (Kuala Lumpur), 1996 (Pahang), 1998 (Selangor), 2000 (Pulau Pinang), 2002 (Sabah), 2004 (Negeri Sembilan) and 2006 (Kedah).
Sarawak were third in the first edition of Sukma in Kuala Lumpur in 1986 and Terengganu in 2008.
At the XIII Sukma in Melaka last year, Sarawak could only manage 33 golds, 49 silvers and 47 bronzes to finish a disappointing sixth behind champions Terengganu, Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Johor and Kedah.
To finish only in the 12th spot this time around was another blow to Sarawak in its hunt for sports excellence at the biennial games since 1988.
Sukma only became an annual affair this year when the National Sports Council hosted the games in Kuala Lumpur.
In the 14th edition of the games in Kuala Lumpur from June 2 until yesterday, Sarawak’s golds were delivered by Brenton Sim in judo and Kueh Wan May in table tennis.
Judo also contributed a silver through Maximillian Law while the other three silvers were won by the state table tennis team.
Canoeing contributed three bronzes through the women’s K4 1,000m, 500m and 200m events while the men’s and women’s table tennis teams captured two bronzes, men’s futsal one and judo, two (Alyssia Lyndia Harun and Enoch Hung).
Meanwhile, the state contingent did not come to Kuala Lumpur with high expectations or dreams of winning the championship but the stark reality of finishing third last in the games was really a bitter pill to swallow.
It was really a far cry from the glory days when the state captured the championship crown for three consecutive Sukma.
State contingent chef de mission Datuk Lee Kim Shin admitted that the poor showing was due to many setbacks and weaknesses especially in terms of training as the performance of the athletes in several sports like handball, kabbadi and basketball have proven.
“We are not surprised that our athletes did not perform so well at this Sukma because they faced many problems such as lack of training or time to train and had little or no exposure to the events they competed in,” said the Assistant Sports Minister.
The other reason for the failure to win more medals was that the state contingent only participated in 12 out of 19 events and most of them are new to Sarawak athletes.
Lee said all the problems and shortcomings have been identified and will be used as a benchmark to make a strong and early preparation for Sukma in Pahang next year.
“We are using this Sukma as an exposure trip for our athletes as well as identifying their weakness so athat they can be overcome in time to come,” he said.
He also pointed out that Sarawak would place more focus in developing martial arts sports that offer many golds such as silambam, wushu, taekwondo, karate and silat.
“Starting from now, we will focus on various aspects such as training, upgrading the training facilities and equipment, hiring more coaches and talent scouting and grooming good calibre athletes,” he said while urging all parties including sports associations, coaches and the Sarawak State Sports Council to prepare early for the next Sukma.
Terengganu made a successful defence of their crown won in 2008 and 2010 by topping the medals table with 29 golds, eight silvers and 12 bronzes, followed by Selangor in a close second with 26 golds, 18 silvers and 28 bronzes.
Johor came in third with 21 golds, 20 silvers and 12 bronzes while Negeri Sembilan were fourth with 16 golds, 11 silvers and 19 bronzes and fifth-placed Kuala Lumpur collected seven golds, 24 silvers and 33 bronzes.
The sixth to 11th placings were occupied by Pulau Pinang (6-10-12), Perlis (5-6-8) and Sarawak’s neighbor Sabah (4-5-13), Melaka (4-3-5), Kedah (4-2-11), Kelantan (3-1-1) while Pahang had one gold, 11 silvers and seven bronze to finish 13th and last was Perak who failed to land any gold but went home with five silvers and 17 bronzes.