NEWLY appointed technical director for athletics, Robert J.Ballard, has been tasked to draw up a road map for the revival of athletics in the country.
Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin who announced the appointment of the 49-year-old Australian today, said Ballard would be in charge of drawing up programmes for high performance athletes and the revival of athletics which has since slummed to an all time low.
After having ruled the track and field events in the region, winning as many as 16 gold medals in the SEA Games as recent as 1997 in Jakarta, Malaysian athletics had nose-dived to a mere four-gold medal achievement in the recent Myanmar SEA Games that ended in December.
The achievement was two gold medals less than the six won in the 2011 SEA Games hosted by Indonesia.
“We promised to assist the Malaysian Athletics Union after the poor showing in Myanmar. We must admit that the drop in performance had started five or 10 years ago.
“With his vast experience as a consultant in athletics, especially high performance, and being an Olympic athlete himself, his presence can help strengthen the development programmes,” he told reporters.
“He is tasked to take charge of the high performance development programmes, coaches and athletes.
He will draw up a road map to excellence in the SEA Games, Asian Games and the Olympics. His contract is for two year.”
Meanwhile, Ballard when met after his appointment said: “Malaysian athletics has impressed me for a very long time and since I first started working in Asean back in 2007 with Indonesia, where their biggest struggle was in athletics. At that time I was wondering how to beat Malaysia.
“I am very confident that we are going to curb this problem and to see the rise of athletics again in Malaysia,” he said.
When asked about producing another notable sprinter for Malaysia, Ballard said he would have to find the right talent to be polished to become a good sprinter.
“With Suryo Agung Wibowo (Indonesian top sprinter) in 2007, his time was 10.6s. He was the right product that I trained. In six months, he ran 10.25s, and improved the time to 10.17s.
“We just have to find the right product, then we can produce them. I think we (he and MAU coaches) can do the same thing here. What I can say about Malaysian sprinters is they lack physical strength and conditioning,” he added.
Ballard was the Seoul Olympics 400m finalist in 1988, was the high performance programme consultant for Indonesia from 2007 to 2009 and also the consultant for well-known women tennis player, Sania Mirza of India for the 2013 WTA/ATP Australian Grand Slam Tour.