Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A doctor in choppy waters

Dr Kevin Lim, a three-time Olympian, a medical doctor and a true pro. No doubts about that.

But I have an issue with him.

I've covered Dr Kevin twice beyond our waters - the first in the Athens Olympics and the second the Doha Asian Games.

Apart from the formal interviews and the occasional encounters at the internet cafe of the Games Village in Athens, I finally got the chance to engage Dr Kevin positively two years later in Doha.

I did not pull any punches in the interview yet being the educated, open and cultured individual that he is, the good doctor took every question in his stride. A true pro, I thought to myself.

I did ask him a few stinging questions, like what has he got to show after the massive investment in him. He was a recipient of government's scholarship for his medical studies and of course his training as a sailor was bankrolled by the National Sports Council.

In short, what is the ROI (returns on investments)?

I wrote in my review of the Asian Games for the Malay Mail that Kevin was one of the contingent's biggest disappointments.

He arrived on the Gulf shores hoping to end his wait for a title but returned to Sydney empty-handed.

In what was his fifth appearance in the Asian Games, the good doctor was in troubled waters from the very first day when he was adjudged to have jumped the gun in the men's laser category. After three Olympics and five Asian Games, Kevin had only the Asian title in 1999 and the two silvers in the Asian Games (1998 and 2002) to show.

And he wants to continue until Beijing 2008. Good idea?

A few days before the race, I attended his press conference.

I wrote this

LIFE has not been plain sailing for sailor Kevin Lim (pic), particularly
during the past few months.
Fondly known as the doctor, for he's the only qualified physician out
of the 231 Malaysian athletes slated to sample life in Doha for the next
two weeks, Kevin has put his medical career on hold in order to land that
elusive gold in the Asiad.
Twice he finished second to South Korean Kim Ho-kon, in the 1998 Games
in Bangkok and the Busan edition four years ago.
The 30-year old Sydney-based sailor, however, has doubts whether or not
it was the right decision to make.
Too late you say?
Well, not really.
Sure, he is two years away from the Beijing Olympics, which would be a
fitting finale for the Kuala Lumpur lad.
True he has the full support of the National Sports Council (NSC).
Sure he has been honing his skills at various places in Europe of late.
All this, however, has come at the expense of his medical career.
He resigned from the Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney to pursue his
hobby, a recreational activity that is also part of the biggest sporting
extravaganza, the Olympics.
It's not only a bread and butter issue for Kevin. A question that needs
to be addressed by the NSC is whether or not Kevin will continue after
Doha to have that final shot at glory in Beijing. Or will he be retiring
for good from this Arabian adventure, perhaps after delivering the gold?
"It's something that I have to decide. I have been enjoying full
support from NSC for this Games but I detect a reluctance on their part
to discuss what comes after this.
"I have several options. I might want to start concentrating on my
medical career. You might look at it from the short-term point of view,
but my plan does not involve going to back to Malaysia in the immediate
"After all I have a girlfriend (Phoebe Stanford) who is also a doctor
at the Prince of Wales hospital. Maybe between eight and 10 years from
today, I might want to go back to Malaysia as a specialist," said Kevin
at the Athletes' Village yesterday.
A gold after a series of races in Doha might just prompt Kevin and the
NSC to go back to the negotiating table.
His prospects in his fifth appearance in the Asiad?
"Nothing less than the gold. Of course I'm anxious but it's all in the
head," said Kevin, adding that he would look forward to renewing rivalry
with Ho-kon.
Ever since his Asiad debut as a 14-year old in the optimist class in
Beijing, Kevin has gone through the mill. And survived a few close calls.
The most recent was the capsize on the French Mediterranean coast. A
strong squall of wind flipped his boat, broke his expensive carbon-fibre
tiller and ripped his sail and Kevin was thrown into the deep end and had
to be rescued.
The wind in Doha is not expected to send the sailors into troubled
The external factors do not seem to trouble Kevin.
In fact, he's enjoying his brief sojourn in the Gulf.
"I'm impressed with the Athletes' Village. Our apartments are fully
equipped, and we have cable TV. That's a first," said Kevin, who has
competed in three Olympics and four Asiads.
In return, it is only natural we expect nothing less than the gold from
the good doctor.

Now Dr Kevin, who has qualified for his fourth Olympics, is unhappy with the Malaysian Yachting Association's decision to conduct another selection process.

This e-mail was from Dr Kevin, which was forwarded to me

I have just got word that MYA and NSC are proposing a selection event in Langkawi in the month of June to select the Olympic representative for Malaysia in the Laser class.

I feel this is a grave injustice and am completely opposed to it because:

1.) MYA did not even register anybody for the last Olympic Qualifying event in Australia this year which indicates to me that they were happy not to send anybody to the Olympics

2.) I contacted the Laser Class association after the close of the registration deadline and had to plead with them to accept my entry, pay for everything on my own and stop work from November 2007 in order to qualify the country without any assistance from NSC nor MYA.

Interestingly, the coach that was sent by MYA for the qualifying event was flown business class to Australia, was accompanied by his whole family to Australia, was paid handsomely and was given money for the sailors entry fee, food, accommodation, travel expenses etc, not a cent of which was given to me.

3.) Since qualifying I have been training full time, sacrificing my professional development as a doctor to represent Malaysia and compete in the European circuit so as to give myself the best chance possible to do well at the Olympics.

4.) The date of the proposed selection event in Malaysia in June will compromise any athletes ability to peak again 2 months later during the Olympics. I already have a full programme from now till the Olympics and having to change them now will jeopardise my preparation.

5.) All the other Malaysian sailors have had ample opportunity to train in Langkawi and become familiar with the conditions there yet I have not ever been invited to join them and have minimal knowledge of the proposed selection venue which will be a tremendous disadvantage.

6.) The proposed selection event will be conducted in a biased environment since the race committee and jury members will be dominated by locals, possibly impartial and not of the calibre of ISAF grade 1 or grade 2 events. There is also the risk that sailors may team up against each other.

7.) NSC and MYA are inherently biased against me since they have not given me any assistance nor sufficient funding since Dec 2006 as they have been doing for the other sailors. The coach that NSC employs has also not given me any assistance while I was in Europe for the last 4 weeks.

8.) Malaysia failed to make the qualifying mark in the 2007 Olympic qualifying event which I did not attend. Since then, no other Malaysian besides me has been actively campaigning for the Olympic Games. Based on the results from 2007 they would not have qualified for the Olympics in 2008 either.

I can only conclude that NSC and MYA have so little faith in their own ability to produce an Olympian in sailing that they have to resort to maliciously stealing the spot that I qualified for independently on merit and try to deprive me of my spot to the Olympic Games.

Qualifying for the Olympics is no easy task - more so when it is self funded and done predominantly as a part time athlete. NSC and MYA should not attempt to rob me of all my sacrifices now when they have not showed any interest in qualifying for the Olympics since July 2007.


jim morrison 'wanabe' said...

Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream...


Arnaz said...

Dear Doc Kevin,
You should specialise in brain surgery. 99 percent of Malaysian sports administrators need it badly. The other 1 percent, need brain transplants.

Anonymous said...

doc....why you want to spend more if privious effort in doha or other are less fasinating..

Anonymous said...

He's a small percentage of Malaysian athletes who are really dedicated and highly disciplined. If all our athletes are like this than we will probably achieve greater success in the sporting world! Most of our athletes only think how much money they are going to get, drive fast n fancy cars, designers clothes, party etc...
we need this kind of thinking athletes! He qualified on MERIT for the Olympics & should be given a chance to represent MAS. Does MYA think that we have a better laser sailor then Kevin Lim? Maybe in a few years time but not at the moment.

i agree with Arnaz, these so called sports administrators need serious brain surgery. Or maybe they don't have a brain to begin with!

madihensem said...

biasala..bila dah ada peluang nak pegi olimpik baru MYA sibuk macam ada keje yang diorang buat, tapi MYA ni memang macam tu, suka sabo orang lain an then give that slot to his relatives...believe me coz we had brought up almost similar story last 2 years, when a coach drop another sailor and then replaced by his son/doughter to world champs,if not mistaken.....ni pulak slot olimpik...lagi la ramai yang berebut walaupun pada hakikatnya tak layak...kesian dr kevin!

...i'm popeye the sailor man..tut!! tut!!

Anonymous said...

Kev is a great ambassador for Malaysia - he can make history by being the only sailor to do 4 Olympics in the Laser if MYA give him what he deserves!

Trashed said...

Kevin Lim qualified for the Beijing Olympics based on MERIT and going thru the hoops of qualifying.

How is it that it may be possible for someone else to replace him ?

For example, Rosalinda qualified for the women's pole vault. Can the MAAU then substitute her ?

Anonymous said...

No Malaysian competitive sailor wants to make a fool of himself by competing in the Olympic Games without being very competent and confident at that level. Neither does he want to have consistently poor results there. Being incompetent he could be an obstacle and a danger to other competitors, their boats and equipment. The sailor representing Malaysia must be well prepared for the important task he undertakes for the Nation.

Just like in a F 1 race, an incompetent driver could cause a crash and damage other competitors' vehicles or be an annoying obstacle to those fighting for good results.

Dr Kevin Lim has the most impressive track record amongst all Malaysian Olympic athletes. He has been to three Olympic Games and single-handedly qualified for Beijing 2008. There is no other Malaysian sailor of Kevin's calibre and dedication. Only the Malaysian Yachting Association, responsible for the promotion of sailing in Malaysia, cannot see it. The proposal of MYA to carry out a selection trial shows how useless MYA is and also how cynical it is. Is this a racist or a politically motivated move? Will NSC and OCM swallow MYA's proposal? If so, NSC and OCM should be made redundant. Then, the Malaysian sailors will have to rely on God's help alone.

The present clueless MYA is like a one eye as well as handicapped manager of sorts leading the blind Council Members. It was never like this. Why has MYA deteriorated to this level?

All Malaysian competitive sailors deserve a better manned Association to prepare them for the SEA Games, Asian Games, and Olympic Games. With the present MYA, Malaysia will never be able to qualify for the prestigious Olympics after Beijing 2008.

A Trustworthy Supporter of Sailors.

Anonymous said...

It has been observed that since last year the Malaysian Yachting Association (MYA) had not practised freedom from discrimination. The right of equality for all Malaysian sailors had been eroded. The main cause of this is MYA's so called development manager/general manager.

It seems that now even the truths are not spared by this crooked and corrupted manager. Greed and the lust for power and individual gains by this dishonest person made him manipulate and confused both the National Sports Council (NSC) and the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM). Surely professional bodies like NSC and OCM should not be hoodwinked by him. Wake up NSC and OCM and investigate this ploy and trickery.

It is very wrong that the NSC and the OCM are held to ransom by a criminal with vested interests whose driving purpose is to siphon off funds to be made available for an obviously unnecessary, and superflous selection trial.

The present declining standards in the Malaysian sailing scene all stem from this individual.