Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak believes that Malaysia will be able to produce more internationally competitive athletes and nurture an ecosystem that consistently produces athletes of high calibre.
The prime minister said such triumphs were not achievable without the collective and dedicated efforts of many, including the commitment from the government and the people.
“I do believe that we can one day be mentioned alongside other sporting nations for the triumphs of our heroes in athletics. In fact, I believe we’re already on our way towards this achievement.
“If we truly are a nation devoted to sports, then surely we can prove ourselves not just in cheering on our current favourites, but also in nurturing new ones.
“A lasting sports legacy that reflects our nation’s strong fighting spirit, perseverance and unity is surely worth more than its weight in gold,” he said in his latest blog entry at www.1malaysia.com.my.
Najib said the outstanding performance by the Malaysian contingent at the 26th SEA Games in Indonesia reflected a positive and most encouraging development in national sports and a demonstration of the 1Malaysia spirit at its best.
“Now that the 26th SEA Games in Palembang (and Jakarta) is concluded, I must congratulate our Malaysian contingent for their outstanding performance. Our target of 45 gold medals was surpassed, and we successfully brought home 59 gold medals instead. Well done.
“I’m certain our athletes are now focusing on other upcoming meets, most notably the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Every competition that comes presents an opportunity for us to challenge ourselves to the limit, and most of all, to show the world what Malaysians are capable of,” he said.
Najib said the challenge, however, not only laid on the current line-up of world-class athletes but also in ensuring that the nation had a future breed of top-notch athletes to fill in the shoes of Joshua Koh (fencing), Lee Chong Wei (badminton), Katrina Ann Hadi (synchronised swimming), Nicol David (squash) and Fatehah Mustapa (track cycling) when they retire.
“Many countries with smaller populations than Malaysia’s have continuously produced world-class athletes. I’m sure most of us can name a few top-notch athletes and athletic teams who hail from countries such as Australia, the Netherlands and Portugal, whose population numbers are below ours.
“Is it an impossible dream to believe that one day we’ll be able to do the same?” Najib asked.
The government had made its latest commitment to invest in sports development through the tabling of the 2012 Budget, he noted.
“This is why the budget has made allocations to building 150 futsal courts and 30 artificial grass courts across the country, not to mention the allocation to identify and train young athletes with the potential to compete internationally.
“We’ve enjoyed the successes of previous programmes that produced winning sports talents; we are committed to producing more,” the prime minister said.
Najib said the government’s commitment alone would not suffice to put Malaysia on the world map of sports, and the nation itself had a role in making sure that a vibrant ecosystem for sports development continued to exist and prosper for generations.
“Athletes cannot become their best without a nurturing environment. They depend upon the wisdom and guidance of coaches, therapists, nutritionists, even engineers and scientists to bring out the best of their abilities.
“A community exists at the foundation of an athlete’s success, providing him or her with the right tools and techniques to compete. While only a handful may rise to the top in their respective sport, it’s thanks to the members of this community that they’re able to do so. “I hope more people will see the value of being a part of this community and help to create a thriving sports industry we can all be proud of,” he said.
Najib said he encouraged Malaysians to take up sports-related activities not just for recreational purposes but for economic purposes as well, because more people are gravitating towards a healthier lifestyle.
“In a report released earlier this year, Global Industry Analysts, Inc. indicates that the world sports and fitness apparel market stands to grow up to US$126.3 billion (RM401.1 billion) by 2015, with the fastest growth potential in the Asia Pacific region.
“As more people, Malaysians included, step into gyms, jogging parks and swimming pools, the demand grows for facilities and services dedicated to health and fitness. I encourage you to seize these opportunities,” he said.