His Royal Highness Prince Hj Sufri Bolkiah (L), the president of the Brunei Darussalam National Olympic Council (BDNOC), attends the first meeting of the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports' national selection and evaluation committee at the Conference Room of the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium in Berakas yesterday. Picture: BT/ Yusri Adanan
His Royal Highness Prince Hj Sufri Bolkiah (R), the president of the Brunei Darussalam National Olympic Council (BDNOC), speaks during yesterday's first meeting of the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports' national selection and evaluation committee. Picture: BT/ Yusri Adanan
Athlete welfare and a more systematic training programme will be given more priority as the country gears up for three major international tournaments this year.
The Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports' national selection and evaluation committee held their first meeting of the year yesterday to discuss the possible sports and athletes the country can send to the Youth Olympic Games, Asian Games and Commonwealth Games.
Attending the meeting at the Conference Room of the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium in Berakas was His Royal Highness Prince Hj Sufri Bolkiah, the president of the Brunei Darussalam National Olympic Council (BDNOC).
In his opening address, the Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Laila Diraja Dato Seri Setia Hj Hazair Hj Abdullah stressed the importance of taking care of the country's sportsmen and women and providing them with a conducive atmosphere to further develop - both issues which have long been concerns for the hundreds of national athletes.
"We need to work hard and multiply our efforts in preparing our athletes earlier in a more systematic and focused manner... and by using the latest methods in coaching and sports science," said the minister.
"There will be increased efforts to attend to the athletes' welfare (as well as) encouraging motivation in training," he said, adding that this includes providing exposure and other facilities.
"The ministry will also make sure the quality of contracted coaches is of a high level and that they meet Key Performance Indicators.
"Our participation in invitational championships overseas and fitness tests carried out by the Sports and Medicine Research Centre at the Department of Youth and Sports will help the members of this committee consider the athletes' nominations and endorsement.
"I am sure that if the athletes meet the committee's criteria and achieve the 85 per cent required in fitness tests, the members of this committee will have the confidence that the athletes they endorse will be able to compete and achieve success in their respective sports," he added.
The committee receives input from various sources and uses the information to decide which athletes represent Brunei in any contingent the country sends to regional and international tournaments.
They base their decisions on five criteria; passes in fitness tests, good disciplinary records, improvements during training, satisfactory attendance records and potential to win medals.
A previous report in The Brunei Times revealed that the national swim team have a shot at meeting the qualifying times required by the sport's world governing body, FINA, to compete at the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) which will run from Aug 16-28 in Nanjing, China.
National swimmers like Christian Nikles and Muhammad Isa Ahmad are tantalisingly close to meeting the B qualifying times (which earns them a chance to compete at the YOG) set out by FINA for the Games - it is understood if they do, it will be the first time any Bruneian athlete will have qualified for an elite level competition without wild cards or universality rules.
Nikles' time in the 50m freestyle (25.09), 50m butterfly (27.03) and 100m butterfly (59.62) are close to meeting the B qualifying mark which stands at 24.48, 26.32 and 57.37 respectively.
Muhammad Isa, meanwhile, has clocked 31.26 in the 50m breaststroke and 1:07.90 in the 100m breaststroke - with the B qualifying times set at 30.85 and 1:07.06.
All five aforementioned times from both swimmers are national records.
Speaking to The Brunei Times after the meeting, the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports' permanent secretary Dato Paduka Hj Mohd Hamid Hj Mohd Jaafar - who is also the committee's chairman - said that priority will be given to athletes who can meet such international markers.
"Not speaking about any specific sport, but if they qualify (via international standards) they will be given priority and (their qualification) taken into consideration," he said, though he was quick to add all athletes must meet the committee's five criteria.
"This is just the first meeting of the year and we are still in process of going through the submissions from all the sport associations based on the criteria," he added.