“I believe in the impossible,” the late Florence Griffith Joyner once said. The Olympian smashed the 100 metres, setting a record time of 10.49 in the women’s category. That record achieved at the Seoul Olympics in 1988 remains untouched to this day. While my achievements are far from what Joyner accomplished, I too, share the same vision of setting my sights on achieving what seems out of reach. I believe that everyone – athlete or not – should subscribe to the same philosophy, that nothing is unattainable.
This is something I wish to inculcate at the Ministry of Youth and Sports, and it is also a vision that I want our young women athletes to embrace. We have a long history of female participation in sports that has perhaps not garnered enough attention compared to their male counterparts, and I think we need to continuously highlight the achievements of these women.
In 1956, sprinter Annie Choong was the first and only Malaysian woman to compete in the Olympics. Since then, we have had a whole host of women who has made the nation proud at various levels of competition. Among them are Datuk M Rajamani, Datuk Marina Chin, Datuk Shalin Zulkifli, Nurul Huda Abdullah, Farah Ann Hadi, and numerous others. More recently, the likes of Datuk Nicol David and Datuk Pandelela Rinong have achieved great things in the name of Malaysia. Of late, there have also been women making headway in non-traditional sports like pro-wrestler Nor Diana.
These women inspire me to take on new challenges with a winning mindset, and I hope they will serve as an inspiration not just to young women but men too. However, despite these many accomplishments by women athletes, studies continue to show that Malaysian women experience a range of barriers when it comes to participation in sports. These are a result of numerous factors, which range from the socio-cultural to lack of opportunities.
As Minister of Youth and Sports, I am intent on ensuring greater accessibility to sports infrastructure, one of the initiatives undertaken by the ministry, which I hope will encourage greater participation of women in sports. I also believe that you don’t have to be an athlete to participate in physical activity. I understand that it is hard for some women to find the time to make fitness a priority. It is for this reason that the ministry intends to take fitness into the community. Zumba, for example, is an activity that appeals to women, and we intend to encourage women to embark on their fitness journey by arranging classes in their vicinity. This is one way of increasing accessibility to sports.
The other initiative that is a priority for the ministry is the introduction of the Safe Sport Code, which aims to ensure a safe and supportive environment for all involved in sports. The rationale behind pushing for a code is that it would allow for a swifter implementation to counter a problem that is currently prevalent. These initiatives, I believe, are in line with this year’s theme of embracing equity.
These are just two focus areas we plan to introduce in the months ahead that we hope will encourage women to embark on their respective fitness journeys. In the words of our very own Nicol David, “Never let people say you can’t do this or that because you are too young or too old, not good enough, or not athletic enough.”
Happy International Women’s Day!
Minister of Youth and Sports