KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s top men’s singles shuttler Lee Zii Jia (pix) has been requested to sign the Letter of Commitment (LOC) for the Road To Gold (RTG) programme within 14 days (before Nov 14), said Youth and Sports Minister Hannah Yeoh.
Hannah, who confirmed Zii Jia as the only athlete in the RTG who has yet to sign the agreement, said the LOC is a requirement in exchange for the benefits and services provide for the athletes under the elite programme towards the hunt for the country’s first gold in Olympics.
“I would really appreciate if Zii Jia takes it as a matter of priority now in the next two week to get the LOC signed ASAP (as soon as possible), because all other athletes including Datuk Mohd Azizulhasni Awang and Datuk Pandelela Rinong, have signed.
“We are committed to help them but they must have some kind of commitment to give back to the government. The LOC is to say that they’re agreeable to be admitted into the RTG, so they also have to play their part in updating us, cooperating with us and meeting regularly with the coordinators,” she told a press conference after the RTG Committee meeting here, today.
At the same time, Hannah praised Zii Jia for showing improved performances since June to climb four rungs in world ranking and 11 in the Race to Paris rankings, especially this month where he won the Arctic Open in Finland and finished second in Denmark Open.
On athletes who were dropped from RTG today, namely the national hockey team and independent mixed doubles shuttlers Tan Kian Meng-Lai Pei Jing and Goh Soon Huat-Shevon Jemie Lai, Hannah said they will still continue to receive the support services via the existing Podium Programme.
“The criteria for RTG is top 10 (in the world), if they’re far behind it means the chances for gold are less. Being dropped does not mean the end of everything, there is still the Podium Programme, the difference is that RTG has an additional allowance of R3,000 a month.
“I hope they would continue improving. The criteria of RTG for Los Angeles Olympics in 2028 would be slightly different from now which we will discuss soon,” she said while admitting that cycling and badminton as two biggest prospects for gold in the Paris Olympics.
Meanwhile, RTG programme coordinator Datuk Stuart Ramalingam said the committee has been in contact with Zii Jia’s team via various channels, but the shuttler was said to be busy with his training and competitions.
“We will continue to engage to ensure Zii Jia understands that the commitment agreement is necessary and is something important. He has been very busy as communicated to us, so unable to meet us.
“We hope now he is back to Malaysia after his competitions, he will allocate some time for RTG programme for us to discuss his requirements and needs. We believe he will engage with us this time,” he said.
Stuart said the independent shuttler has been provided with the sports science services twice under the programme despite not signing the LOC, but the stipulated additional funds and allowances will not be provided until the world number 11 shuttler signs the agreement.
Asked on the utilisation of the RTG budget, he said about 50 per cent of the RM5 million allocated for RTG this year, has been spend as of now.
RTG is an elite athlete programme launched in March towards achieving the country’s first gold medal in the Olympic Games in Paris and Los Angeles. –Bernama