Sports columnists in Burma have their doubts concerning the Ministry of Sports’ goal for the country to finish in the top three of the Southeast Asian Games’ medal count.
The games, which are set to kick off in Burma this December, will host 33 approved sporting events. But according to sports columnist Soe Nyi, there are at least seven categories that Burmese athletes have no shot of winning a gold medal in.
“There are 41 gold medals for the swimming event and we could win about one if we were very lucky – but chances are still very slim even for that. And I see that cycling would be another type of sport with very tough competition for us to win a gold medal because we’ve been out of touch with this for generations,” said Soe Nyi, adding that there was almost no chance for Burma to win gold in table tennis events which is largely dominated by Singaporean athletes.
“There is no way we would be able to beat Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia in badminton, and based on our current records, we could win only as many as five gold medals out of the 46 for the track and field events. And we will definitely not win hockey.”
However, the columnist argued that Burmese competitors were expected to do well in martial arts events.
According to the Ministry of Sports’ Sports and Physical Education Department director Htay Aung, the government body has been working hard to ensure that Burmese athletes capture gold medals on their home soil, but he admits the competition will be tough.
“We are training [athletes] intensively with various methods, including sending them to participate at international events as well as hosting events back home. We are doing everything necessary,” said Htay Aung.
“However, since athletes in other countries were also training at their best, we might not have as much gold medals as we expected. But since we are the host, we’ll do our best to fulfil the public’s wish [for victory.]”
Earlier this year, Burma announced that it was excluding gymnastics and tennis from the competition, which prompted accusations from participants that the host country was engineering the selection in order to ensure that Burmese athletes won more medals.
In May, the Philippines unleashed vocal protests against Burma’s handling of the games and announced that the country would only be sending a small delegation of athletes in response to the host country’s exclusion of the events.