At the last Games in Manila, Malaysian had a medal haul of 61-49-65 and finished behind the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam in the standings. It was the best achievement outside the country in the history of the biennial Games, bettering the previous haul of 57 gold medals in Brunei in 1999.
“Almost half of the Malaysian contingent will be made up of new athletes,” said Azalina during the launch of a coffee table book on Malaysia's achievements in sports since 1957 at the National Sports Complex in Bukit Jalil yesterday.
“But the challenge for NSC (National Sports Council) is to make sure that we will finish in third or fourth place in the standings.
“The government has been pouring in a lot of money by getting experts in various fields to help them perform. The SEA Games will be the key performance index to measure the progress of Malaysian athletes this year.”
The NSC director general, Datuk Zolkples Embong, heads the task force to prepare athletes for the Korat Games scheduled for Dec 6-15.
Malaysia will have more than 600 athletes in their contingent and they are down to compete in 44 sports.
Azalina also reminded all the national sports associations to put emphasis on youth development.
“They should start exposing newcomers. The International Olympic Committee announced recently that the first Youth Olympic Games will be held in 2010 and we have to be ready by then,” she said.
The Youth Olympics are for athletes between the ages of 14 and 18.