Asean University Games 2016

Asean University Games: Malaysia's decline evident

Malaysia's Khoo Cai Lin on her way to a bronze medal in the women's 800m freestyle final at the OCBC Aquatic Centre yesterday. "Since I wasn't going to Rio, I sort of eased off on training a bit," she said of her current form.
Malaysia's Khoo Cai Lin on her way to a bronze medal in the women's 800m freestyle final at the OCBC Aquatic Centre yesterday. "Since I wasn't going to Rio, I sort of eased off on training a bit," she said of her current form.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Dual Olympian Khoo takes bronze, highlights lack of drive as the main drawback for rookies

A two-time Olympian, Khoo Cai Lin was part of the glory days with Malaysia's swim team as they swept nine gold medals at the 2009 SEA Games in Laos.

But Malaysia's haul dwindled to just three at the SEA Games in Singapore last year and the slump has been closely mirrored in the results of the Malaysian university team at the Asean University Games (AUG) hosted by the Republic.

At the OCBC Aquatic Centre yesterday, Khoo won a bronze in the 800m freestyle relay and was fourth in the 800m free.

Although the 27-year-old said she was "not surprised" by her results at the meet yesterday, she admitted that Malaysia's swimming scene has indeed declined.

"I wasn't training full force before coming for the AUG because my initial goal was to qualify for the Olympics, which I did," said Khoo, who featured in the 2008 and 2012 editions.

"But my points score wasn't high enough and since I wasn't going to Rio, I sort of eased off on training a bit," added the freestyle specialist, who holds five SEA Games golds, won during a period from 2007 to 2013.

Citing a lack of drive as the main reason for the country's poor swimming results, she added: "It all comes down to the development of swimming and how the younger generation can cope with hard training."

Malaysia's assistant coach Ho Chiah Liang agreed with that view, adding that youth swimmers need to look beyond competing in Malaysia and comparing timings within South-east Asia.

Referring to the National Age Group Championships in Malaysia, which took place in April, he said:

"No meet records (were broken by) the younger swimmers, and that's an indication of the future batch.

"It was quite disappointing, because this meet is the biggest for young Malaysian swimmers.

"That's where the national team turn to, to get the next crop of swimmers."

Malaysia will host next year's SEA Games.

Khoo, who is aiming to compete in the 400m and 800m freestyle races at the biennial event, believes the swimmers will put up a better showing.

"It's not every year that the SEA Games is held in your home country," she said.

"Beyond next year, I think in the long run it'll also be good for the younger swimmers to learn that it's not just about winning for yourself, but also for your country."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 14, 2016, with the headline 'Malaysia's decline evident'. Print Edition | Subscribe