Brunei's chef de mission to the 27th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games has identified four key areas that need to be paid immediate attention to if the country is to improve on their poor track record at the regional meet.
Except for the 1999 Brunei SEA Games, the country has never won more than two gold medals at the biennial event - and this year's showing, where the nation finished at the bottom of the 11-team table, was no different.
The country bagged one gold, one silver and six bronze medals here at the Myanmar capital, and though wushu, karate and pencak silat delivered medals as hoped for, and sepak takraw performed better than expected with two bronze medals, the other six sports have failed to impress.
Responding to questions in a detailed, four-page report sent to Brunei media, Hj Muhd Zamri Dato Paduka Hj Hamdani (pic) reviewed the overall performance of the 61 Bruneian athletes at the Dec 11-22 tournament - though the most vital piece of information came when he was asked what the country should do to prepare for the 28th edition of the Games.
Not only did the Deputy Director II of the Department of Youth and Sports state that the country has to prepare earlier for the 2015 Singapore SEA Games, he also reasoned that sports which have the potential to win medals must be identified faster and given more support.
Hj Muhd Zamri, who is also the vice-president of the Brunei Darussalam National Olympic Council, also talked about the need for more exposure for national athletes and greater importance to be placed on their welfare - issues that have resonated with the athletes for several years and were brought to light once again when The Brunei Times talked to the various national teams here.
"The challenge at this SEA Games and the next one will definitely be tougher, which can be seen from the quality of the other countries' athletes," he noted.
"Therefore, there are several steps that need to be immediately taken by all stakeholders as we approach the 2015 Singapore SEA Games.
"Success cannot be achieved at the blink of an eye. It needs detailed planning and necessary help for the athletes who deserve it.
"Among the steps that need to be taken from now include choosing deserving athletes at an earlier stage before the next SEA Games, if possible, at the beginning of next year. The early selection will provide the athletes time to sharpen their skills in their respective events. Even though we don't know what sports will be contested at the 2015 Singapore SEA Games, we can already predict what they will be by looking at the past editions.
"The government and national sports associations need to identify sports that we can field to win medals for the country at an earlier stage. Our performance at this year's Games can be used as a benchmark to see what level our athletes are at. Those sports that shine need to be given importance and support (for it) needs to be multiplied in order to ensure those athletes will be able to improve and contribute more medals at the 2015 Games.
"More exposure, such as sending athletes to overseas tournaments, is a very important factor. It is the one component that needs to be given attention to in order to allow athletes gain more competitive experience going up against those who are at a higher level than them. This exposure will also shape an athlete to better understand the situations they are facing or overcome when they are competing at a more challenging tournament such as the SEA Games. More frequent participation in tournaments before the SEA Games will give the athletes self-confidence, and at the same time, they will know what weaknesses they have to improve on. The athletes will also get the chance to learn about the techniques and tactics used by foreign athletes.
"Helping athletes, especially their welfare, needs to be a priority, more so those who are still studying and those who are not working. This will help lessen some of their parents' burden and give the athletes full room to focus on preparing for tournaments," he added.
Though this year's medal tally was better than the 2011 Indonesia SEA Games - where Brunei finished with four silver and seven bronze medals - the experienced chef de mission who also held the same post at the 2012 London Olympics, 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games and the 2009 Laos SEA Games felt that it wasn't necessarily a more successful campaign.
Hj Muhd Zamri said that although sports such as wushu and karate delivered on pre-SEA Games promise - the former won gold and the latter silver - he said the eight-member pencak silat squad's haul of two bronze medals did not meet expectations.
The decrease in the number of silver and bronze medals were also pointed out, but more importantly, he said that sports such as football, petanque, cycling and athletics failed to perform well.
The football team failed to win any of their four games while athletics and petanque finished last in their events. Competing in four events, the cyclists finished second last in two events, last in one and they failed to finish the other.
Though he said the gap in standards and a lack of fighting spirit were to blame, the chef de mission did not feel all of Brunei's athletes suffered from the same problem.
"Among the factors in the failure to provide a challenge is because the difference in level," he said.
"Some of them were also nervous before competing, making it hard for them to adapt to the game situation when competing. Some of them also easily gave up when they were too far behind.
"Even though our billiards & snooker athlete (Ahmad Taufiq Murni) failed to advance to the next round, he was able to provide a fight and his score wasn't far off.
"Among the factors which caused him to lose were mistakes made in crucial periods which allowed his opponents to attack and win the matches. (But) his fighting spirit should be praised because although he trailed during the games, he still tried to challenge his opponent."