Olympics: MAF slated for selecting official instead of coach

Lee … Tokyo bound. Photo: Facebook

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Athletics Federation (MAF) have been criticised for selecting a state official to accompany high jumper Lee Hup Wei to the Tokyo Olympics next month.

With Hup Wei set to take up the wildcard slot if no Malaysian track and field athlete qualifies on merit by the June 29 deadline, the MAF are in favour of sending an official from a state association to accompany the high jumper, instead of his coach Aleksandar Gasparyan.

Former director of the International Association of Athletics Federations’ (IAAF) High-Performance Training Centre (HPTC) for Asia Datuk Mohd Musa Noor Mohd said the decision does not bode well for the development of athletics in the country.

“High jump is a field event that requires the expertise and technical know-how that can only be provided by a certified coach. Usually, a coach is given about 10 minutes to help his athlete during competition.

“It is a mistake to send an official instead of the coach. Since the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) will have the final say, I hope they will make a fair decision for the sake of the sport’s development,” he said in a statement today (June 7).

Meanwhile, MAF president Datuk SM Muthu justified the decision (to send an official) by citing several reasons, including the technical expertise of the selected official to handle any situation at the Olympics.

“The official, in the role of team manager, will be able to take care of the welfare of the athlete and, if there’s a protest, he knows the rules and regulations to pursue it. He has about 40 years of experience… and is also better at English.

“I don’t know why this has become an issue this time. We believe that Hup Wei, with over a decade of experience as an athlete, can still perform his best,” he said when contacted by Bernama.

Hup Wei, the 2007 Asian champion and three-time SEA Games gold medallist, is currently the best-placed Malaysian athlete in the World Athletics ranking, which was last updated on May 31.

Hup Wei, who has competed at the 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Olympics, is ranked 20th with 1,235 points while fellow high jumper Nauraj Singh Randhawa, who won gold at the Hungarian Grand Prix (GP) Series Tatabanya Championship yesterday, is in 60th place with 1,145 points.

MAF are set to send nine national athletes, including Hup Wei, to the Qosanov Memorial Championships in Almaty, Kazakhstan from June 19-20 in an attempt to qualify for the Olympics on merit.

The others are Andre Anura Anuar (long jump); Muhammad Hakimi Ismail (triple jump); Connie Chu (discus); Yap Sean Yee (high jump); Muhammad Haiqal Hanafi, Jonathan Nyepa (both 100 metres); Khairul Hafiz Jantan (200m); and Rayzam Shah Wan Sofian (110m hurdles). Muhammad Irfan Shamsuddin (discus) is set to miss the event due to an injury.

Meanwhile, OCM president Tan Sri Mohamad Norza Zakaria when contacted said the decision to send an official or a coach is MAF’s call, but advised it should be athlete-centric as the secretariat able to handle the logistic needs of the athletes.

“We are quite simple, we limit one official for every two athletes, whether the need is coach or manager, we will leave it to the associations. The associations need to ensure that the athletes going to the Olympics, achieve their personal best, medals or whatever the objective for sending them.

“It has be athlete-centric to a certain extent. In terms of the management of the contingent, we are looking around a maximum of 27 to 30 athletes this time. So it is not a big contingent, and there’s a secretariat to handle everything,” he said. – Bernama