The year 2017 will best be remembered by Malaysia’s outstanding achievement of finishing top of the Kuala Lumpur Sea Games medals tally with a record gold medal haul – glories.
In showcasing Malaysia’s regional dominance, the country’s athletes did not disappoint by raking in 145 gold medals.
That tally was later reduced to 144 following diver Wendy Ng’s positive drug result for the appetite suppressant sibutramine but Malaysia still ended a whopping 73 gold medals ahead of second-placed Thailand.
The failed drug test should take nothing away from Malaysia’s dominant showing at the biennial multi-sport games where the country finished tops in archery, basketball, bowling, cricket, cycling, equestrian, gymnastics, hockey, karate, lawn bowls, netball, silat, rugby, sailing, short track speed skating, squash, water skiing and wushu.
Shot putter Ziyad Zolkefli, having made history by being the first para athlete to win medal at the Sea Games, led the national contingent to second place behind Indonesia in the medal tally at the Asean Para Games as Malaysia won 90 gold medals.
Meanwhile, Malaysia’s hopes for a long-awaited Olympic gold medal in 2020 were raised by world titles in two Olympic events.
Azizulhasni Awang achieved a long-cherished ambition to become a world champion when he won the keirin title at the World Track Championships in Hong Kong in April.
After claiming two silver and two bronze medals in the keirin and sprint events in previous world meets, Azizulhasni finally came out tops in a historic race.
It was the first time a Malaysian had won a world title in an Olympic event, which Azizulhasni will now look to replicate in Tokyo in 2020.
Not long after Azizulhasni’s achievement, diver Cheong Jun Hoong followed suit with another triumph in an Olympic event by taking gold in the women’s 10m individual platform at the World Aquatics Championships in Budapest in July.
Jun Hoong defeated China’s reigning Olympic champion Ren Qiang on her way to victory, having earlier claimed the bronze medal in the 10m platform synchro with Pandelela Rinong.
Elsewhere, Malaysian bowlers ended a 10-year drought for a gold medal at the World Championships in Las Vegas when Shalin Zulkifli led the women’s squad to victory in the team event.
The bowlers also returned with three silver medals to cap a fine year for the sport.
As always, football hogged the limelight for good and bad reasons.
While the national Under-22’s run to the Sea Games final captured the imagination of fans, the senior national squad had little reason to be cheerful.
Ong Kim Swee led the Under-22 side to a silver medal after a 1-0 defeat to Thailand in the final at the Shah Alam Stadium having been demoted as senior national coach.
His replacement, Nelo Vingada, did not last long, quitting after five months following a record of one draw and six defeats as Malaysia failed to qualify for the 2019 Asian Cup.
But where football failed, hockey shone like a bright star.
After finishing fifth at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, the men’s team placed fourth at the World League Semi-Finals to qualify for the World Cup in India next year.
Malaysia bounced back from heavy defeats to England (5-2) and Argentina (7-3) in their opening two matches in London to defeat South Korea (1-0), China (5-1) and India (3-2) to secure a spot at the World Cup.
After bullying their way to a Sea Games gold medal where they thrashed Indonesia 18-1 and Myanmar 14-0, the national team showed they can stand on their own against the continent’s heavyweights by reaching the Asia Cup final in Dhaka.
Only a 2-1 defeat to India denied Malaysia a historic triumph but they will look to carry their momentum to next year.
Other notable achievements in 2017 include sprinter Khairul Hafiz Jantan breaking Tan Sri Dr M. Jegathesan’s 49-year-old 200m national record when he clocked 20.90 seconds at the Malaysian Open in July.
Lee Chong Wei won a fourth All-England title in March but was then denied a 12th Malaysian Open crown by China’s Lin Dan in Kuching.
Eight-time world squash champion Nicol David only had one PSA Tour win to show in 2017 after ending a 15-month title drought in Colombia in March.
Golfer Gavin Green, 23, became the first Malaysian to win the Asian Tour Order of Merit title just two years after turning professional.
Wong Weng Son became a wushu world champion in the men’s jianshu (sword) event in Kazan, Russia in October before Tan Cheong Min, Phoon Eyin and Loh Ying Ting combined to win the women’s duel event as the national exponents also claimed three silver and three bronze medals.