The Malaysian media’s obsession with the country’s first gold medal is not right, says former Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) president Tunku Tan Sri Imran Tuanku Ja’afar.
The 70-year-old Negri Sembilan prince, who helmed the OCM from 2000 to 2018, is adamant that the national athletes have done well at the Games thus far even with a gold nowhere in sight.
Malaysia have amassed 11 medals – seven silver and four bronze – since their maiden appearance at the 1956 Melbourne Games.
It was in Rio de Janeiro four years ago that the national contingent returned with their best-ever haul of four silvers and a bronze.
Shuttlers Lee Chong Wei (men’s singles), Goh V Shem-Wee Kiong (men’s doubles) and Chan Peng Soon-Goh Liu Ying (mixed doubles) delivered three silvers in badminton; while divers Pandelela Rinong-Cheong Jun Hoong (women’s 10m platform synchro) and track cyclist Azizulhasni Awang (men’s keirin) brought home a silver and a bronze respectively.
Pandelela-Jun Hoong’s runner-up finish marked Malaysia’s diving team best outing at the Games while Azizulhasni created history for winning Malaysia first medal in cycling, making it only the third sport to win an Olympic medal after badminton and diving.
“I hate it when the media say we failed to get a gold medal,” said Tunku Imran yesterday. “No one fails for not winning a gold medal. If you win silver, you’re second (best in the world) and that’s a great achievement.
“In most countries, an athlete winning a medal of any colour would be hailed as a superhero. In Malaysia, we seem to think that gold is the only colour.
“It’s not all about the gold medal. It’s about how hard the athletes tried, and you’ve got to take your hat off to them for overcoming the adversity and the best in the world (to secure the podium finish).
“Even if they come fourth or reach the final rounds, I think that is already a great achievement,” added Tunku Imran, who is also an honorary member of the Interna-tional Olympic Committee (IOC).
Tunku Imran has also backed the Malaysian athletes to continue their medal-winning run at the Tokyo Games from July 24-Aug 9, despite several setbacks over the past one year.
Former world No. 1 shuttler Lee Chong Wei, Malaysia’s most successful Olympian retired last year, while diving world champion Cheong Jun Hoong has yet to make a competitive return since undergoing a knee surgery in August 2018.
“Anyone who qualifies has an opportunity. In the Olympic Games, anything can happen,” stressed Tunku Imran.
“In Rio, who would have thought that we could win three silver medals.
“All eyes were on Chong Wei, but our men’s doubles and mixed doubles came through.
“In London (2012), Pandelela came from behind to claim the bronze with a brilliant last dive. I’m always an optimist. Never write anyone off.”