RESUSCITATOR: Aussie Olympian appointed MAF technical directorROBERT Ballard is the man the Sports Ministry has tapped to help resuscitate Malaysian athletics which hit rock-bottom at the Sea Games last year.
Ballard, 49, who ran in the 4x400m for Australia at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, will spend the next two years charting the course of the sport as the Malaysian Athletics Federation (MAF) technical director.
His first task is to present a plan in one month on the way forward for Malaysian athletics leading to a rebirth of the sport at the 2017 Sea Games which Malaysia will host.
"He will be responsible to plan a path towards success for the national athletes at the Sea Games, Asian Games and Olympics," said Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin in introducing Ballard to the media in Putrajaya yesterday.
"Ballard's appointment is timely following the sport's decline over the last five to 10 years.
"He will assist in restoring Malaysia's reputation in Southeast Asia for a start.
"I am certain that with his wide experience in consulting on high-performance and elite athletics programmes, we can resuscitate the sport.
"In one month, he will present a plan to the joint-working committee on how to achieve the standard of excellence in athletics."
Ballard is seconded to MAF by the National Sports Council on a two-year contract, with an option for another two years, for US$84,000 (RM280,000) annually.
The Australian, who helped Indonesia's Suryo Agung Wiboyo win the men's 100m gold at the 2009 Sea Games in a blistering 10.17 seconds, is keen to get down to work immediately.
"I start as of now," said Ballard. "Malaysian athletics has impressed me for a very long time and when I was in Indonesia (2007-2009), we always tried to figure out how to do better than Malaysia.
"But I am dismayed that they have not achieved their potential since 2007, so it is a great opportunity to come on board.
"With the support of NSC and the minister, I am confident we can curb this downward spiral and see the rise again of Malaysian athletics."
Ballard, who has worked with several tennis players including India's Sania Mirza, Aisam Qureshi of Pakistan and Russian Dimitar Tursunov, will also assist the Lawn Tennis Association of Malaysia in implementing its development programme on an ad hoc basis though Khairy stressed Ballard's priority is athletics.
MAF president Datuk Zainal Abidin Ahmad, whose plea for assistance from NSC has been answered after the track and field athletes returned with just four gold medals from Naypyitaw, is keen to work closely with Ballard.
"We have come up with an eight-year strategic plan to identify and develop talent, training centres, psychological and strength building and along comes Ballard to give it impetus," said Zainal.
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