Saturday, June 6

Olympians handed timely boost as training resume – Minister

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Abdul Karim speaks at the press conference. — Photo by Chimon Upon

KUCHING: Minister of Youth and Sports Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah welcomes the federal government’s decision to allow athletes under the Road to Tokyo (RTT) programme to resume training on June 1 ahead of next year’s Tokyo Olympics.

The rescheduled Olympic Games will start from July 23 to Aug 8 while Paralympics from Aug 24 to Sept 5 next year.

“This is good news for our Sarawakians athletes who will be representing Malaysia in the Olympics and hopefully the decision will gradually be extended to those who will be representing the country for other coming major events,” he told a press conference at his office here yesterday.

He said several Sarawakian athletes had also been selected and shortlisted for the 31st South East Asia Games to be held in Vietnam on Nov 21 to Dec 2 next year, and also for the 2022 Asian Games to be held in Hangzou, China.

He added the national diving queen Pandelela Rinong has already confirmed her participation in the coming Tokyo Olympics.

Two Sarawakians, reigning Malaysia Games (Sukma) 10m platform synchronised gold medallist Kimberley Bong and swimmer Welson Sim are still in contention for a qualifying spot in the Olympics.

Sarawakian athletes who are expected to be included in the national squad for next year’s 31st SEA Games are former taekwondo (poomsea) gold medallist Nurul Hidayah Abdul Karim, sprinters Jonathan Nyipa, Nixon Kennedy and hammer throwers Grace Wong and Jackie Wong.

Those who are expected to represent Malaysia in the 2022 Asian Games are Welson Sim, Ashley Lau (golf), Bibiana Ng (shooting), Alice Chang and Karen Dick Lyne (table tennis), Audrey Chan and Loh Jack Chang (wushu), and Fazzilla Sylvester (women’s hockey).

Abdul Karim added that the list is not finalised and there may be more athletes from Sarawak who could make it to the national teams because the selection process by the National Sports Council (NSC) is ongoing.

“The decision to allow the Olympics-bound athletes to resume training will also boost their morale and motivate them further because throughout the Movement Control Order (MCO) they were forced to confine training on their own and at home but now they are allowed to undergo centralised training under a quarantine based-approach,” he said.

Apart from the National Sports Complex in Bukit Jalil, the national athletes are allowed to train at National Badminton Academy an Bukit Kiara and National Sailing Centre in Langkawi.

Abdul Karim lauded the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to be enforced by the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports that required athletes, their officials and other personnel to undergo swab tests for Covid-19 before they report for training

“As for Sarawak, we are still abiding by the current restrictions imposed by the Federal government with regards to the opening of sports complexes and gymnasiums which are out of bounds for our local athletes.

“Thus, their training is still confined at home and we will continue to monitor the situation and follow the latest guidelines given by the Federal government.

“The State Government through the Ministry of Youth and Sports as well as Sarawak Sports Corporation (SSC) and Sarawak State Sports Council (MSNS) are assisting our local athletes by monitoring their welfare and training throughout the MCO period,” he said.

The sports minister plans to bring up the reopening of state sports facilities with the State Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) so that athletes here can start training for Sukma 2020 which has been postponed to March next year as there is only nine months left.

“There’s nothing wrong for Sarawak Sports Complex to open up only for those shortlisted for Sukma. We cannot afford to let them continue training at home. We should allow this little opening.

“Some sports training can only be done in their own arena, for example swimming, they can’t train at home. You need to be in the pool. But if you allow the pool to be used by the public, it will be a danger to the state swimmers.”

Abdul Karim added that athletes must go through stringent tests before they can resume training in training centres and his ministry will be selective in allowing which sport to resume normal training.

He believed it is not advisable for those in contact sports to resume full training but saw nothing wrong in resuming training for non-contact sports like cycling and weightlifting.

Asked when athletes in Sarawak can resume training, Abdul Karim said, “Maybe after Gawai, let them have some time with their families.”

Also present were Assistant Minister of Youth and Sports Datuk Snowdan Lawan and MSNS director Dr Ong Kong Swee.