Malaysia is making alarming noises in the lowest SEA Games rankings in 40 years

The flag bearer of Malaysia holds the national flag at the opening ceremony of the 31st Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) on May 12, 2022 at the My Day National Stadium in Hanoi.  (Photo Enhak Nguyen / AFP)

The flag bearer of Malaysia holds the national flag at the opening ceremony of the 31st Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) on May 12, 2022 at the My Day National Stadium in Hanoi. (Photo Enhak Nguyen / AFP)

A government minister has said “all Malaysians are disappointed” which threatens to become the country’s lowest place in the SEA Games in almost 40 years.

Traditionally a regional power, Sports Minister Ahmed Faizal Azumu sounded the alarm on Friday after Malaysian athletes reached the 36-gold mark in a two-day competition.

However, Malaysia remained sixth in the medal table until Saturday morning, with host Vietnam leading the way with 167 gold, followed by Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore and the Philippines.

“All Malaysians are disappointed because we are not in a higher position,” Ahmed told the Games on Friday, according to state news agency Bernama.

“We should not be satisfied with our sixth position in the Games.”

Malaysia typically ranks in the regional top five and last ranked sixth in 1983, when only eight countries participated, compared to the current 11.

It comes with Malaysia competing in the July-August Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England, where the Asian Games have been postponed indefinitely in China later this year.

“The exposure gained at the SEA Games is important for us to achieve more success in other multi-sport games like the Commonwealth Games and Asiad,” Ahmed said.

The Malaysian government cut sports spending by 289 million ringgit ($ 67 million) last year from 940 million ringgit the previous year.

It dropped its number of full-time athletes from 432 to 288 a few months after showing a weak Tokyo Olympics with a silver and a bronze.

Malaysia has made a strong start in the SEA Games, winning eight golds in diving, with the rest of the medals scattered across other sports.

The last possible hope for more medals for the country could be to rest in badminton, one of the few sports that it has done well internationally, with semifinals and finals in the next two days.

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