MNCF-MTB up in arms over Category B athletes' rejection for Sea Games

31 Jan 2023 05:45pm
Mohd Saiful Abdul Jalil, MNCF vice president
Mohd Saiful Abdul Jalil, MNCF vice president
SHAH ALAM - The Malaysian National Cycling Federation (MNCF) mountain bike committee is up in arms over the Olympic Council of Malaysia's (OCM) decision to impose criteria which restricts Category B athletes for the Sea Games in Cambodia on May 5-17.

MNCF mountain bike committee chairman Mohd Saiful Abdul Jalil was left wondering what the relevance of such criteria was, as Category B athletes were those selected by the national sports associations (NSAs) and funded by them, without cost to the OCM or the government.

He said the MNCF had proposed a list of 11 riders they wished to send to Cambodia, of which just six have been approved, namely reigning Sea Games champion cross country relay quartet Ahmad Syazrin Awang Ilah, Zulfikri Zulkifli, Natahsya Soon and Nur Assyira Zainal Abidin, as well as Asian Junior MTB Championships bronze medallist Muhammad Syawal Mazlin and Asian MTB Championships bronze medallist Muhammad Fahmi Khairul.

Those rejected were Sani Syahmi Mohd Safiee, Phi Kun Pan, Norzarina Mohd Zaki, Nur Deena Safia Nor Effandy and Eddyna Nasuhar Zainal Abidin.

"I do not understand why there needs to be such high criteria for Category B athletes. These are athletes under our development programme and we need to send them to competitions such as the Sea Games to gain exposure. They are not medal prospects, but it is vital that we give them this experience. Plus, for Category B athletes, it is the NSA that funds their trip. It does not cost the government or OCM any money," said Mohd Saiful.

Category A athletes are those either under national programmes or those who are set as medal prospects, who have met qualification criteria, while those slotted under Category B, are funded by the NSAs and only reimbursed by the National Sports Council (NSC) should they deliver medals.

"We were informed that the five athletes did not meet the criteria for Category B, thus won't be registered for the Sea Games. I don't agree with this. Kun Pan finished fifth in the Asian Championships last year, while Norzarina finished seventh. Eddyna is the national champion, while Nur Deena is the Malaysia Games silver medallist. Saniy finished third in the National Championships last year and he is 21," said Mohd Saiful.

"I believe the NSAs should have the final say on athletes they wish to send to the Sea Games under Category B since it does not burden the NSC or OCM. The Sea Games is not just about winning medals. It is about development mainly and the OCM should not deny these athletes opportunities by setting unrealistic criteria."

UITM Academicians Association president and sports critic Ahmad Faisal Muhammad Fiah criticised OCM's decision to impose criteria on Category B athletes for the Sea Games
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"At such a level, it is unecessary. It not only denies athletes the opportunities, but also disrupts the plans of the NSAs who have invested in the development of their athletes. In fact, the NSAs are footing the bill for Category B athletes, to give them the exposure and experience," said Ahmad Faisal.

"It is not just about medals. The NSAs may have discovered athletes who have shown a lot of promise in local competitions, but have never competed in international events. The Sea Games would be an ideal step up for such athletes. Many gems have been discovered in this way. Imposing such criteria could discourage the NSAs as well."

Ahmad Faisal said he hoped the OCM would reconsider such criteria as it did not benefit the sport, as well as the country.

"The NSAs have their justification in wanting to send their athletes under Category B to the Sea Games. Their intention to do so should be seen as a mark of their seriousness, as itrequires them to raise their own funds. This should be seen as a positive step," said Ahmad Faisal.