SEA Games, ASEAN Para Games Reflect Closer Unity Among Malaysians

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Dhabitah lighting the KL2017 SEA Games torch in the opening ceremonyDhabitah lighting the KL2017 SEA Games torch in the opening ceremony

KUALA LUMPUR -- Sports once again proved that it is the national agent of unity, and throughout 2017 the people's consensus through sports was clearly displayed with solid support for the national athletes.

The 29th SEA Games and the ninth ASEAN Para Games clearly demonstrated the strong support of the people.

The success of the two games for Malaysia was not only reflected in the medal tally, but also in uniting Malaysians regardless of their background, ethnicity, religion, culture, skin colour or political beliefs.

In the SEA Games, the Malaysian contingent not only exceeded the targeted 111 gold medals but emerged as overall champions of the games with 145 gold, 92 silver and 86 bronze medals.

Armed with the solid support of local spectators and sparked by the SEA Games theme of  “Rising  Together”, it was undeniable that all athletes worked hard to contribute to that success story

The achievement was a indeed a special gift to the country which celebrated the 60th National Day a day after the closing of the games.

In the ASEAN Para Games, Malaysia finished second by collecting 90 gold, 85 silver and 83 bronze medals.

The year 2017 could also be regarded as a great achievement for the country's athletes in promoting Malaysia's name at the international level when six athletes, including three handicapped, were crowned as world champions.

It began with the world title won by cyclist Mohd Azizulhasni Awang, followed by Muhammad Ziyad Zolkefli and Abdul Latif Romly (para sports); Cheong Jun Hoong (diving); Wong Wen Son (wushu); and last but not least, Cheah Liek Hou, who won the Para-BWF World Badminton Championship.

The national sports arena also saw a paralympic athlete crowned as the National Sportsman for the first time this year.

Abdul Latif's success in awarding Malaysia with a gold medal and creating a new world record in the T20 long jump event at the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, had enabled him to become the country's highest sports award recipient.

On Jan 10, Malaysian footballer Mohd Faiz Subri also made history when he won the International Football Federation (FIFA) Puskas Award for the most beautiful goal in 2016.

Who would have thought the Penang striker could create such a history for Malaysia as he was not a national player and was not a player of choice among the country's elite players.

Nevertheless, the sky is not always bright and despite the constant warnings of the Ministry of Youth and Sports about doping issues, there were still those who were found positive using forbidden substances as outlined by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

Two elite athletes, Wendy Ng Yan Yee (diving) failed the doping test for sibutramine which were normally found in body slimming products, while Mohd Hafifi Mansor’s (weightlifting) folly involved Oxymetholone, an anabolic synthetic steroid and androgenic item.

In addition, the national sports arena was also rocked by the case of a national diving coach being detained by police after allegedly raping a diving athlete in October.

In another development, Malaysia bade goodbye to the prestigious and high profile race, Formula One World Championships (F1).

The F1 event in Sepang, which saw a spectacular and exciting event since 1999, evoked tenderness, sadness and nostalgia when it ended, carving the history of challenging racing circuit, not only in terms of racing track design but also uncertain weather to put Malaysia on the world map in the history of hosting F1 race.

On April 7, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announced that Malaysia would no longer host a F1 race after the government agreed to end the contract of organisation from next year due to the declining returns to the country.

However, Malaysia's involvement in the F1 race would still continue through Petronas,  which would continue sponsorship of Mercedes AMG Petronas as the company's marketing strategy until 2020.

Also stealing the focus throughout 2017 was the selection of the new Malaysian Football Association (FAM) and the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) leaderships.

The 53th FAM Congress on March 25 saw Tunku Mahkota of Johor (TMJ) Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim secured FAM presidency for the 2017-2021 term uncontested after his challenger Tan Sri Annuar Musa, former president of the Kelantan Football Association ( KAFA), withdrew from the contest.

Meanwhile, the 'gentleman agreement' crisis for the presidency before the BAM election on April 29 involving two candidates, namely, acting president, Tan Sri Mohamed Al Amin Abd Majid and his deputy, Datuk Seri Mohamad Norza Zakaria, had caused uneasiness among many quarters.

However, the issue was resolved after Mohamed Al Amin agreed to give way to Mohamad Norza as announced by Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin after a closed meeting with BAM Patron, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor.

It simultaneously maintained BAM's tradition of no election for the post of BAM president,  and its council members agreed to appoint Mohamed Al Amin as BAM Advisor.