LEE Chong Wei and Nicol David, rightly, were crowned as the 2008 National Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year last night.
It was easy for the selection panel to reach its decision for the two were Malaysia’s standout performers in 2008.
However, questions have been asked about what the future will be after the two hang up their racquets.
Chong Wei, no thanks to the rest of the singles players and inconsistent doubles, is Malaysia’s sole flag bearer in badminton while Nicol is on her own.
But the future, Timesport’s reporters found out during last week’s Malaysian Schools Sports Council (MSSM) meets, can be rosy provided immediate action is taken.
The badminton championships in Kangar saw a talented bunch in the Under-12 and this, provided the BA of Malaysia and its affiliates swing into action quickly, will assure a brighter future.
Badminton’s popularity in Malaysia is second to none when it comes to local sports and as long as Chong Wei and the men’s doubles, albeit inconsistently, deliver, the sport will continue to attract talent.
However, BAM and its affiliates must do more for age-group players need to play competitively on a regular basis.
The MSSM and junior grand prix events alone are not enough as the focus should be on keeping them interested in the sport for the long term.
Although BAM may feel this isn’t an approach it needs to take as it has more than 70 players in the Bukit Jalil Sports School, opportunities must be given to players who prefer to stay out of the national programme to impress.
Even if only one goes on to win an Olympic gold, it would be a worthwhile return on whatever BAM has to invest in a non-sports school programme.
Feedback from the Selangor Aquatic Centre was inspiring as several swimmers in the Under-14 category impressed.
Swimming has been reeling since the retirements of Alex Lim, Elvin Chia and Anthony Ang but the MSSM meet showed that the next generation — and this includes the girls — is ready to step up.
Malaysia may never have a swimmer like Alex again — and I still wonder how he achieved what he did despite his height disadvantage — but we must never stop hoping and for all we know, future Chong Weis, Alexs and Nicols were seen during the MSSM last week.