KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 12 – The introduction of a pension scheme for athletes who have represented the country at the Olympic Games will motivate more athletes to strive for the highest in their respective fields, said national diver Leong Mun Yee.
Mun Yee, who will be making her fifth Olympics appearance at the Tokyo Olympics in July next year, said if the proposed pension scheme was approved it would accord proper recognition to Olympians who might have excelled at other world-class events but failed to win an Olympics medal.
“If it really happens, it will be a big motivation for athletes to work hard and do our best in the Olympics. Also an appreciation for all the Olympians for their contributions to our country,” the 36-year-old Perakian told Bernama.
Mun Yee herself is an accomplished diver who has yet to win an Olympics medal despite having featured in the 2000 Sydney, 2004 Athens, 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Olympics. Her best outing was a seventh place finish in the women’s 10m synchronised platform in London.
Mun Yee, who took up diving at the age of 10, has had podium finishes at various international tournaments, including the World Championships, and Asian and Commonwealth Games.
She partnered Pandelela Rinong to win Malaysia’s first ever diving world championships medal, clinching bronze in women’s 10m synchronised platform in the 2009 edition in Rome, Italy.
On Thursday, Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Reezal Merican Naina Merican told the Dewan Rakyat that the ministry was discussing the pension scheme with various sports organisations and that the proposal would be brought to the Cabinet soon. Currently, only Olympics medallists are entitled to a pension.
The idea was mooted by Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) president Tan Sri Mohamad Norza Zakaria through Bernama when asked about the OCM’s 2021 Budget wish list last month.
The pension proposal was also received positively by the Malaysian Olympians Association (MOA), who said such a scheme will ensure that a career as an elite athlete is a sustainable choice for Malaysian sporting talents.
MOA said the 340 Malaysian Olympians make up only 0.001 per cent of the country’s population of 32 million and some of them are still competing at the highest levels.
“We welcome the recent announcements by the Youth and Sports Ministry and OCM about implementing a pension scheme for all Malaysian Olympians, and we would like to continue these types of initiatives and efforts that focus on the wellbeing of our Olympians.
“We should all recognise their achievements and support the tremendous sacrifices they have made in order to raise our beloved country’s profile in the most positive way on the world stage. When there is a voice, there is a movement! Now, we have the momentum,” MOA said in a statement.
MOA said granting a pension to all Olympians would boost Malaysia’s push for glory at the Olympics, as aspiring Malaysian athletes can be assured of financial support in retirement after dedicating themselves to their sporting careers.