KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 23 (Bernama) — A total of 117 athletes were selected for the National Sports Institute’s (NSI) Podium Programme this year, compared with 97 last year, which is aimed at delivering the country’s first gold in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The new list saw 37 new faces added in the high performance programme, replacing retired women’s squash player Delia Arnold and weightlifter Zulhelmi Md Pisol, while another 15 athletes were dropped due to various reasons.
Among the sporting stars to remain in the list are badminton ace Datuk Lee Chong Wei, squash queen Datuk Nicol David, diving darlings Pandelela Rinong and Cheong Jun Heong and cyclist Mohd Azizulhasni Awang.
In the Paralympics, Hasihin Sanawi (archery), Abdul Latif Romly, Mohamed Ziyad Zolkefli, Mohamed Ridzuan Mohamad Puzi (athletics), Jamery Siga (swimming), Cheah Liek Hou, Hairul Fozi Saaba and Madzlan Saibon (badminton) remained in the programme.
Podium Programme Director Tim Newenham said the selected and non-selected athletes will be put on six month interim performance review to ensure they remained on target and to enable selection or non-selection in exceptional cases.
“For this year, we actually have 180 nominated athletes, but only 117 made the cut. For those not selected the door has not shut, they can fight hard, train hard raise the level of performance to get back on the programme.
“Among the selection criteria to be ranked among the top eight in the recent Olympics or Paralympics, demonstrate ability to win medal at next Olympics, Paralympics, Asian Games and Commonwealth Games,” Newenham said while announcing the list to the press at the NSI here, today.
Besides the first Olympics gold medal, the programme is also aimed to achieve a top 10 finish at the 2018 Gold Coast (Australia) Commonwealth Games and Jakarta Asian Games.
Cyclist Muhd Shah Firdaus Sahrom, high jumper Nauraj Singh Randhawa, women’s singles shuttler Goh Jin Wei, squash players S. Sivasangari, Ng Eain Yow and Delia Arnold, swimmer Welsom Sim Wee Sheng and weightlifter Muhammad Azroy Hazalwafie are among the new faces in the programme.
Meanwhile, one archer and four shooters were dropped because they were unable to meet the selection criteria while four para sailors were dropped because the sports is not contested in the upcoming Asean Para Games.
Asked about the reason why the 100m national record holder Khairul Hafiz Jantan did not make the cut, Newenham said Khairul Hafiz’s senior world ranking, 122, still need to reduced but promised to monitor his performance.
Newenham said raising standards and increasing interest among Malaysian athletes’ were reasons for more athletes selected for the Podium Programme this year.
As more ‘Kita Juara’ programme athletes made the cut in the list, the National Sports Council director-general Datuk Ahmad Shapawi Ismail said the athletes will still compete for the upcoming Kuala Lumpur SEA Games.
Source : Bernama