A look back at 2020: Major sports events planned for Malaysia, and cancelled due to Covid-19

R. Loheswar
·6-min read
The logo for the Tokyo 2020 torch relay is pictured as the Olympic flame goes on display at the Aquamarine Fukushima aquarium in Iwaki in Fukushima prefecture March 25, 2020. — AFP pic
The logo for the Tokyo 2020 torch relay is pictured as the Olympic flame goes on display at the Aquamarine Fukushima aquarium in Iwaki in Fukushima prefecture March 25, 2020. — AFP pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 30 ― One of the biggest upsets this year for sports followers has been the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics as the Covid-19 virus swept through the world, infecting tens of millions of people and leaving over 1.6 million deaths and counting.

In Malaysia, several major sporting events too have been wrecked by this highly infectious virus, impeding the development of many athletes, some who were hoping to make it to the Olympics by participating in local and international competitions.

Here’s a closer look at several sports categories and the events that have been halted this year, and what to expect in 2021.

Athletics

National athletics head coach Mohd Manshahar Abd Jalil said several athletes like long jumper Lee Hup Wei, discus thrower record holder Irfan Shamsuddin, national long jump record holder Andre Anura Anuar, national triple jump record holder Muhammad Hakimi Ismail in addition to national sprinter Muhammad Haiqal Hanafi had chances to qualify.

However, they have been hampered by the cancellation of the Federal Territories Kuala Lumpur Amateur Athletics Association (FTKLAAA) Open, which is held every year in Bukit Jalil which would have provided them with an opportunity to meet the qualifying marks for their respective events.

“Then due to Covid, all the events in Europe were cancelled. We would always be there from April till June or July competing in different competitions to get prepared and to hit the qualifying marks for the Olympics.

“When they started to ease restrictions it was not easy to travel there as every country had different travel restrictions and we were severely hampered by the inability to participate,” Man Sahar said when contacted.

“We have been doing simulation drills and competitions while we are at camp and the minister did say competitions can be held with limited numbers next year so we are hopeful.

“Meanwhile, if we do get the green light to travel we will go anywhere as long as the event is sanctioned by World Athletics,” he added, referring to the International Association of Athletics Federation.

Malaysian athletes enrolled in the 2020 Road to Tokyo programme are undergoing one-month preparation at three venues starting June 1, at MSN Bukit Jalil, Malaysia Badminton Academy in Bukit Kiara, Kuala Lumpur and the National Sailing Centre in Langkawi, Kedah.

National diver Nur Dhabitah Sabri in action during the Asian Games women’s 1m individual springboard event, August 31, 2018. ― Reuters pic
National diver Nur Dhabitah Sabri in action during the Asian Games women’s 1m individual springboard event, August 31, 2018. ― Reuters pic

Diving

Diving, which consistently provided medals for Malaysia, saw four events cancelled this year: the FINA Diving GP Malaysia Leg, Malaysia Open in May, Malaysia International Age-Group Championships and the Sea Age-Group Championships.

Malaysia's Nur Dhabitah Sabri, Pandelela Rinong, Wendy Ng Yan Yee and veteran Leong Mun Yee have all qualified for the Olympics with only world champion Cheong Jun Hoong ― making her way back from knee surgery ― yet to qualify.

The only action they have seen since the movement control order in March was the recent Malaysia International Online Diving competition.

Badminton has been severely hampered with the cancellation of the prestigious Malaysia Open, initially scheduled for March 31-April 5 at the Axiata Arena in Bukit Jalil. — Reuters pic
Badminton has been severely hampered with the cancellation of the prestigious Malaysia Open, initially scheduled for March 31-April 5 at the Axiata Arena in Bukit Jalil. — Reuters pic

Badminton

Badminton has also been severely hampered with the cancellation of the prestigious Malaysia Open, initially scheduled for March 31-April 5 at the Axiata Arena in Bukit Jalil.

The Badminton World Federation has postponed the planned Asian leg of its World Tour until January 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The leg was originally scheduled for November.

The qualifying race for the Tokyo Olympics badminton event is set to resume from January 2021, with a total of 24 tournaments that were postponed, cancelled or suspended due to Covid-19 this year, including the Malaysian Open, remaining as part of the qualifiers.

This would be good news for shuttlers who have thus far only provisionally qualified men's singles Lee Zii Jia, mens doubles Aaron Chia-Soh Wooi Yik, women's singles Soniia Cheah, women's doubles Chow Mei Kuan-Lee Meng Yean and mixed doubles pair Chan Peng Soon-Goh Liu Ying.

Besides that, badmintons premier team competition the Thomas and Uber Cup's were also cancelled.

Scheduled for May, it was postponed to August then slated for October 3-11 in Aarhus, Denmark but finally was cancelled outright after several countries South Korea, Indonesia, Australia, Taiwan and Thailand pulled out.

Sukma

Besides that, the 2020 Malaysia Games (Sukma) and Para Sukma in Johor were finally cancelled due to the uncertainty over the Covid-19 outbreak.

Sukma offers young athletes a chance to shine and prove themselves in hopes of making the national setup in their event. It is where we identify our future stars.

Youth and Sports Minister, Datuk Seri Reezal Merican Naina Merican however said Johor would still be given the right to host the 2022 edition as the state is almost 99 per cent ready in terms of planning, management, technical and competition facilities.

Sukma should have been held in July but was postponed to March 6-14 2021 due to the pandemic before being further rescheduled to April 2-10.

Motorsports

Malaysians have always had more of an affinity for motorcycle racing and Malaysia has been a regular fixture on the MotoGP circuit.

The stands are always packed with fans for the MotoGP's more than for the Formula 1 races which have been cancelled due to financial issues.

This year however the Shell Malaysia Motorcycle Grand Prix scheduled for October 30 till November 1 has been cancelled.

Adding to that the Sepang International Circuit ― the company setup to manage Sepang International Circuit, had postponed all events and activities at the circuit from October 14-27.

This includes the second round of the Malaysian Superbike Championship (MSBK), scheduled for Oct 16-18.

Malaysia has been hosting the motorcycle racing series since 1991. The SIC hosted the series since 1999, and this year’s cancellation would mark the first time the country has not hosted the Motorcycle Grand Prix in 20 years.

This will be the first time since 1947 that there will be no Malaysia Cup champion. — AFP pic
This will be the first time since 1947 that there will be no Malaysia Cup champion. — AFP pic

Football

The most beloved sporting event in Malaysia the Malaysia Cup has also been cancelled due to the governments “no contact” sports policy.

The Malaysian Football League decided to cancel the remaining Malaysia Cup matches this season after the National Security Council rejected its appeal to allow matches to continue.

The first round of Malaysia Cup was held from November 6-8, while the quarter-finals were scheduled for November 12 and 13, semi-finals on November 17 and final on November 22.

This will be the first time since 1947 that there will be no Malaysia Cup champion.

This decision came despite many fans calling for the competition to continue with limited numbers and a live telecast. But senior defence minister Datuk Seri Ismail Yaakob under the advice from the security council decided that contact sports are too dangerous to be allowed to continue.

The silver lining so far has been the Youth and Sports Ministry’s announcement that the sports and recreational sector can resume operations from January 1, 2021.

Under the new norm, events held in areas under the recovery movement control order are allowed to have spectators no more than 4,000 people or 10 per cent of the venue capacity (whichever is lower), while events organised in conditional movement control order areas are not allowed to have spectators.

For international events involving foreign participants and for the participation of local athletes in overseas tournaments, it is still subject to the approval of the Immigration Department.

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