Wednesday, March 20

Not ‘rob’ but on merits


ONE of our Rio Olympics 2016 badminton stories in Sabah carried the headline “M’sian pair rob China of final spot.”

One reader promptly protested: “Malaysia didn’t ‘ROB’ China pair. We beat them. Rob is cheating or stealing. We did not. Come on! Your headline just did not go right with the winning wonderful feelings!”

Of course, we won fair and square to move into the final of the mixed doubles. I suspect in writing that headline, our Sabahan journalists were rationalising that China fielded the better pair and was more deserving of victory but if you look at it from another perspective, the headline actually put Malaysia in a better light – that as the underdog, the combination of Chan Peng Soon and Goh Liu Ying rose to the occasion to knock out the better rated China pair.

In any event, as another journalist suggested “deny” would have been a better choice.

Yes, “Rob” has a shifty ring to it and does no justice to laudable efforts of our gallant mixed doubles pair.

The headline of a Malay-language newspaper – Olimpik: Peng Soon-Liu Ying sekadar raih perak – also received many comments and criticisms for belittling the duo with a tacit slur that “it’s only a silver medal.”

Let’s not forget though that it’s Malaysia’s first-ever Olympic silver medal in the mixed doubles competition. Pundits gave Peng Soon-Liu Ying a ghost of a chance to progress beyond the quarter-finals but they beat the odds by storming into the final and delivering the silver medal for the country. So is it really just a silver medal? Yes, but undeniably, one that’s extremely rare and much coveted in Malaysian badminton.

South of the border across the Causeway, another Olympic story has dominated the headlines and sparked a frenzied outpouring of public adulation. Singapore’s famous son 21-year-old Joseph Isaac Schooling won the 100M butterfly to bag Lion City’s first-ever Olympic gold medal. The victory was all the sweeter as Joseph not only relegated his idol Michael Phelps into second place but also sent the great American multiple gold medallist into retirement – at 31.

Now, it appears all and sundry wants a piece young Joe.

The following was widely circulated in WhatsApp Group by keyboard warriors: “Everyone now wants to claim credit for Schooling’s Olympic gold medal. The Americans say he was trained there. Malaysians say his mum is from Ipoh. British claim his great grandfather was from Britain. Portugal claims his great grandmother was Portugal-Eurasian. China claims that he is half Chinese.”

But the best part comes from the Philippines: “He’s brought up by his Filipino maid.”

The writer, obviously, meant to be sarcastic – no doubt about it. But the YouTube video that followed was very touching. Singtel which produced the video script, flashed this heart-warming message: “We want to help Joseph say special thanks to Auntie Yolly for her 19 years of loving support.”

Joseph was quick to add: “Aunty Yolly is like a second mom to me.”

The Philippines did not claim any credit for Joseph’s famous victory but the Singaporean swimming super star (or is it multi-national swimming star with so many countries lining up to claim him as theirs) has selflessly expressed gratitude to the person who has been so special in his life. As he said, small things she did come a long way.

I’m truly awed by Joseph’s big-hearted parents – Colin and May. Not many parents would want to share such glory with a caretaker!

This is the season to rejoice. As I write this, Malaysia still has a chance of winning  gold, silver or bronze. There’s every reason to rejoice and we all want to share in the successes brought by our sporting talents.

A bit indiscreet perhaps but cyclist Azizulhasni Awang would certainly have shared his moment of glory better had he not, after bagging an Olympic bronze medal in the men’s Keirin final, taken a swipe at Terengganu Menteri Besar Ahmad Razif Abdul Rahman for not providing him with a “road bike” while he was training Down Under for the Rio Games.

The 28-year-old wrote in a Facebook post: “Thank you for not buying a road bike for our use in preparation for this Olympics, even though the proposal was submitted nearly one year ago. For your information, Fatehah and I are world class Olympic athletes, something which you have always overlooked. Maybe one of the factors is that we have been training overseas.”

Azizulhasni and Fatehah Mustapha are both Malaysian cyclists from Terengganu based in Melbourne with the Malaysian team.

Azizulhasni received his support through the National Sports Institute and National Sports Council. According to Sports and Youth Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, “road bikes are not the ones used for racing on the velodrome.”

It is, nevertheless, heartening to note Azizulhasni has sent a special thank you message to his parents, his wife and two daughters – which makes it a happy ending.

Back in Sarawak, we are also arguing whether Pandelela Rinong should be conferred the honorific title of “Datuk” for winning a Olympic diving silver medal. Actually, it has turned quite ugly with the differing opinions! An army veteran has even gone so far as to lodge a police report on the pensions to be paid to Pandelela.

Regardless, we wish our diving queen the very best as she strives to win more accolades and glory for the state and country in the international arena.

Despite some disagreements and unhappiness, from the first silver medal by Pandelela and Jun Hoong to the latest silver medals by Peng Soon-Liu Ying, V Shem-Wee Kiong,  and the gold medal by Joseph Schooling from neighbouring Singapore, there are beautiful stories of “support and accountability.”

Many years ago, I interviewed Dr David Lowes Watson whom I described as a Wesley Scholar, a superb teacher, a devoted disciple and a wonderful story teller.

Watson gave me some good lessons on mutual accountability through Covenant Discipleship by checking on each other, thereby achieving the objective of encouraging and helping each other to grow in their love for God through devotion and worship while loving our neighbours through compassion and justice.

Watson said: “Some things are done better by two people than by one. Anything which is subject to human limitation or error, requires the collegial presence of another person to ensure reliability.”

Covenant Discipleship is a way and a wish that Christians be accountable in doing what they can do. There are certain things which are difficult to do on our own, so we have to do it with someone else. It’s where the members tell each other what kind of journey they have to take as disciples. They give an account of what has been to be a Christian over the week, thus helping each other in the Christian journey. They do this by means of a covenant which they themselves have written. By making this agreement, they give some shape to the two great commandments of Jesus’ to love God and love our neighbours.

He said when he was studying at Oxford University, he resolved to keep physically fit, and decided to run each morning before breakfast.

The first week he ran every morning. The second week, he missed a couple mornings. The third week, he missed all but one morning. The fourth week he missed altogether. The following year, he took a precautionary measure, asking the person next door if he would like to go running with him.

On the days he was late, his friend would bang on the door with a cheery prompting: “Time to be going!” They made it through the year, every morning.

I believe the Olympic medal winners have many such doing-things-together occasions, being accountable to their commitments and encouraging each other.

As in life’s race, we also need the collegial presence of another person to ensure reliability and accountability – be in our speeches, action and our lives in the community.

Nobody should judge, nobody should get negative but be in an accountable community that reinforces them with the capacity to love God and our neighbours.