By Geryl Ogilvy
KUCHING, Feb 13: The Sarawak government is setting up an elite performance centre to develop its paralympic athletes for international meets.
Additionally, the state will also be setting up 12 training centres across the state to promote disabled athletics and recreational activities for athletes with disabilities.
Minister of Welfare, Community Wellbeing, Women, Family and Childhood Development Dato Sri Fatimah Abdullah said the proposed elite performance centre would be built here to train promising athletes from all over Sarawak.
For a start, the elite centre will be used to prepare athletes for the 2020 paralympic Malaysia Games (Sukma) in Johor. The aim is to develop these athletes for international duties.
“The elite training centre, to be set up in Kuching, will continue our long-term efforts to train athletes with physical disabilities, especially those with the potential of winning gold medals at the 2020 Sukma Paralympics in Johor and representing Malaysia (in the future).
“About 20 elite athletes will be picked for the pilot project, and I assure you they all would be selected based on merit,” Fatimah said at the launching of her ministry’s OKU (people with disability) Development Unit 2019-2020 programme here today.
Her text-of-speech was read out by Assistant Minister for Community Wellbeing Datuk Francis Harden Hollis.
Fatimah said the selected athletes would be given allowance and accommodation at the performance centre. The state will appoint four qualified coaches to train them, with compensation based on their training honorarium.
On the 12 training centres, one for each division in the state, she said it was to promote disabled athletics and recreational activities to athletes with disabilities.
Two qualified trainers will run each centre and report to the ministry’s OKU Development Unit.
As part of its two-year programme and initiative to strengthen sports and recreational activities among the disabled community, the unit will embark on a roadshow throughout the state to scout and identify sporting talents.
Those with the potential to represent the state at Sukma competitions will be sent to the proposed elite performance centre.
“In 2017, about 700 disabled athletes from all 12 divisions in Sarawak went for trials conducted by various sports NGOs.
“From there, 100 were selected to represent their respective zones for Sukan Sarawak (Suksar) that year and 15 were picked to join the Sarawak paralympic squad for the 2018 Sukma in Perak.
“Some of them actually contributed to the state’s 163 medal haul to become overall champion, despite it being their first time involved at a national-level competition,” she said.
At the Sukma XIX Paralympic in Perak, Sarawak took 61 gold medals, 62 silvers and 40 bronzes to become the Malaysia Games paralympic champion for the 13th time in a row since 1994.
She added that the state would give exposure to promising athletes as part of its preparation for the next Sukma paralympic.
The National Sports Council (MSN) will also assist the state with the acquisition of coaches to train young Sarawak disabled athletes as well as sponsoring flight tickets for them to compete in international circuits.
The state is also planning to introduce the Special Olympics State Games next year, which will be held in Sibu for its first edition.
At the event today, Harden presented mock cheques amounting to RM543,750 to paralympic athletes who participated in the Sukma and Malaysian Deaf Games (Sopma) in Perak last year. — DayakDaily