2017 has been a year of highs and lows for Malaysian sports with a number of controversies sparking heated debate among officials, athletes and fans alike.
In track and field, the main focus for many Malaysian athletes this year was the Kuala Lumpur Sea Games (KL2017) and Kuala Lumpur Asean Para Games (Para KL2017).
It, however, turned out badly for sprinter S. Komalam Shally who was axed from the national women’s 4x100m relay squad for allegedly disrespecting a national coach just before KL2017.
Her absence greatly affected the team’s performance as they finished last in the event at KL2017. Two months before the Sea Games, the relay team, with Komalam, have broken the national record.
She has since been left out in the cold by the Malaysian Athletics Federation and filed an appeal to the national body to be included in the national team again.
In football, many critics questioned the ability of newly appointed coach Nelo Vingada after a run of poor results which saw Malaysia unceremoniously dumped out of the Asia Cup qualifiers. Vingada subsequently resigned earlier this month and has been replaced by his assistant Tan Cheong Hoe.
However, national players and a number of officials, highlighting the unrealistic demands placed on the team and its management, said the blame should not have been solely pinned on Vingada, who failed to win a single match in his short-lived, seven game tenure
Meanwhile, doping issues continued to haunt Malaysian sports with a number of high profile athletes testing positive for banned substances.
Weightlifter Hafifi Mansor tested positive for the anabolic steroid oxymetholone at the Australian Open in March. The result of the test, however, was only made known in October, which raised a number of question marks.
Hafifi, a Commonwealth Games gold medallist, is adamant he did not consume the substance and claimed he could have been sabotaged. Proving it, however, will be a tough task and failure to do so will likely see him being slapped with a four-year ban.
Sibutramine, an appetite suppressant, commonly found in weight loss supplements, again made headlines as national hockey player S. Kumar and diver Wendy Ng, who both face up to two years suspension, were found with the substance in their system. Sibutramine is not viewed as seriously as anabolic steroids by the World Anti-Doping Agency as it is not a performance enhancer.
Wushu exponent Tai Cheau Xuen had also tested positive for the substance at the 2014 Asian Games and was stripped of her gold medal. She was later banned four months by the sport’s international governing body.
Kumar, the most decorated goalkeeper in Malaysian hockey history, tested positive for the substance at the Asia Cup in Dhaka, Bangladesh in October while Wendy’s failed sample was taken during KL2017.
Wendy was subsequently stripped of the two gold medals she won at KL2017. Her case was only the start of a list of issues faced in diving. In October, national backup coach Huang Qiang was charged with the rape of a 20-year-old diver.
The incident led to an investigation with the Sports Ministry revealing that a “culture and environment of fear” existed within the national diving team.
National head coach Yang Zhuliang was blamed for allowing this culture to happen and was subsequently shown the door. His contract as head coach was not renewed and he is set to leave the country soon.
Many have claimed that Zhuliang, the most successful coach in Malaysian diving history, has been made the scapegoat for the rape case. However, there were also allegations that he had covered up for incidents involving Huang Qiang, including physical abuse, prior to the rape case.
The National Sports Institute (NSI), who manage the high performance Podium Programme, are bringing in an Australian coach to replace Zhuliang next month.
2018 will be another important year for Malaysian athletes with many of them set to compete in the Gold Coast Commonwealth and Indonesia Asian Games.
Hopefully, their results will overshadow any untoward issues that may arise next year.