TAN Cheong Min is rightfully the most successful Malaysian athlete in the just concluded 32nd edition of the SEA Games held in Cambodia.

 The 25-year-old is a former Wushu World Champion.

She is the only Malaysian athlete to have won two gold medals by performing brilliantly in the nangun and nandao events which were combined and then in nanquan.

For all the experienced she had built around her over the years, the SEA Games is a new playground. There is no promise of returning home with a glittering gold medal but yet she made the nation proud not with one but two gold medals.

While Cheng Min’s and all the 33 other gold medallist’s success stories deserve a big round of applause, the 45 athletes who returned home fought gallantly to pocket silver medals and 98 others garlanded bronze medals equally deserve a pat on their back for the hard work, dedication and commitment.

The performance of our athletes is a concern for Youth and Sports Minister Hannah Yeoh who has called on for a full analysis of the Malaysian contingent’s performance at the SEA Games.

The Minister, while acknowledging that it was tough to meet the 40-gold medal target, she was nevertheless proud of the athletes who had given their very best.

“Some of the athletes were not even earmarked for gold, silver, or bronze medals at the Games but yet they turned the tide around and surprised everyone. I am so happy and proud of them,” she was quoted as saying.

Armchair critics were back at their ‘nefarious activities’ in condemning Malaysia’s haul of the “meagre” 34 gold medals – just six gold medals short of the targeted 40.

Would there have been any brouhaha had our athletes met the 40-gold medals target?

Dear Malaysians, let’s not throw our athletes under the bus for not living up to your high expectations.

It is an open secret that the majority of our young athletes who competed in the Cambodia SEA Games are making their debut in preparation for future biennial games and international competitions.

Let them cherish the joy of victory, and give them the space to learn from their mistakes.

There is so much room for improvement and come 2025 when Thailand host the next Games our athletes would have undergone the metamorphosis process from caterpillars into butterflies.

Perhaps, it would be apt to take a leaf from Bou Samnang’s book.

The story of Cambodia’s 5,000 metres runner Bou Samnang touched everyone’s heart at the Sea Games.

The diminutive athlete refused to stop running despite a torrential downpour, thunder and lightning that began towards the end of her race on May 7.

All the other athletes had finished the race but Bou Samnang tugged on and refused to give up and stop.

She said, “It was important for me to finish the race. Because of the crowd support I had and I was also representing my country. I had the right to stop the race but I could not do that.”

Bou Samnang’s story is not about failing or winning. It is not the gold medals that count or matter most at the end of the day, but the sheer perseverance of completing a race and coming back stronger in the next round of the race.

Learn from your mistakes, and rise.

There’s surely a light at the end of the tunnel.

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