KORAT, Dec 16 (Bernama) -- The Malaysia Amateur Athletics Union (MAAU) set an ambitious target of 10 gold medals for the Korat SEA Games but finished with seven while it was Thailand who remained the dominant force in the region.
The Thais won 17 gold medals out of the 45 that was stake for athletics and also set eight new SEA Games records compared to Malaysia's seven and a single Games record.
Based on the statistics here, it will take a long while before Malaysians can be a power to be reckoned with in athletics in Southeast Asia.
The MAAU must go back to the drawing board to see what went wrong and where it went wrong, following which action plans must be set in motion to rectify the situation.
The glaring fact remains that ageing athletes are past their prime and there is a void in the second echelon of successors who can readily step into their shoes.
To make matters worse, Moh Siew Wei has voiced her intention to retire after failing to defend her 100m hurdles gold while Ngew Sin Mei's reign as the long and triple jump queen in the Games came to an end after losing to an unknown Thai athlete.
The absence of 400m hurdles favourite Noraseela Khalid and MAAU's failure to find an able replacement for her, cost Malaysia a possible gold in the event and considering that she will be 29 when Laos host the 2009 SEA Games, we can expect a similar scenario if a quick remedy is not found.
The same also can be said in the case of the men's 400m hurdles as there was no replacement for the injured Shahadan Jamaluddin, who had won the gold at the Manila SEA Games in 2005.
The walk events, a forte of Malaysia, may soon face the same fate as Yuan Yufang, who had announced her retirement earlier due to her age, had to make a comeback for the Games here because there was no one to take over.
It also needed another veteran, Teoh Boon Lim, who came out of his retirement, to salvage the gold when defending champion Mohd Shahrulhaizy Abd Rahman was disqualified for "floating".
In the event that all three walkers decide to call it a day, Malaysia may have to forego hopes of gold in these events since nobody is coming through the mill.
The National Sports Council (NSC) must also look at their development programmes and identify the areas of concern before it is too late.
Setting ambitious targets is nothing wrong but achieving it is another.