Maria Mercedes Alverez Ponton and puny looking arab gelding ,Nobby : Individual Gold ,World Endurance Championship ,2008 ,Lembah Bidong ,Terengganu ,Malaysia .18.2 kph average over 160 kilometres under extreme heat and humidity ,a myth blowing feat .Team UAE ,Bahrain and Qatar :Team Gold ,Silver and Bronze .Relegating the Europeans ,Australians and Americans to the 'dustbins' of endurance history .That was Malaysia WEC that was !
I am still in a state of shock .I never perceive one could go beyond 16 kph in our conditions ,especially our high humidity .We have difficulty even breaching 12 kph .When ESPN's Lisa Wong asked me ,looking at our tired Ms Laily on Jesse James walking past the finishing line at the end of phase 5 when Maria had long gone home to her hotel room to sleep , what ails the Malaysians ?: I could only offer the best classical excuse .We Malaysians are still at the wrong end of a 'steep learning curve' .
Yes ,the 100 million ringgit [ I assume the WEC cost us that much but given our penchant for the 'plus plus and more plus ,it could well be much more ! ]lesson is that we really was on the wrong side of a steep learning curve .
Could still recall one and a half year ago as I sit for a dinner pow wow with Mr Bond from the Al Raudhah fraternity[ I am sure he would just wish to be known here as Mr Bond only ] ,to discuss plan how to achieve a team of 12 with the limited resources we have .Money is there .Abundant .The Minister of Sport then was just a phone call away .Our horses could so far not breach even 12 kph average .The solution :Go Down Under and South America get good horses on the cheap ,allocate to 16 or 20 named riders ,have local 160's 2 monthly and choose the best 12 .We have then 1 1/2 years to do it .Fullstop .
Then came Equine Influenza Down Under .Followed by nonsensical FEI 'playing to the gallery 'double CoC requirement .Mr Bond's plan went haywire .Some bright spark suggest Europe ,South America to buy horses and bring back and compete .Some much more brighter blokes suggest obtaining CoC overseas .Local rides may be too tough , may not make it in time .They forget that Endurance is all about toughness .They forgot that horse traders are horse traders .In retrospect , TMKN Stable prequalified four of their horses without going anywhere ,DIET ,2 or was it 3 . [But what the heck ,MONEY was there , spend it !Was the credo of the day ]
Money was there .Then the ' National Erection' .Money still not there .Sports Minister too busy .Won 'tanpa bertanding . Still more delay .Money already there but..... but money not yet there .Rumours abound .6 to 8 months gone .No substantive local competition ,no oversea buying forays .Typically Malaysians .
By the time things got moving WEC was already only 7 to 8 months away .Double CoC in 8 months!.Frantic oversea rides on 3rd rate 'buffalos' at 1st rate price .Typically Malaysians .Local rides was worse . Only started 6 months away from WEC !We spent 9 months laying on our back from inactivity and then all the frenzy of double CoC in the next 6 months .
By the time of WEC yesterday we are either riding 'tired' local horses or 3rd rate oversea 'buffaloes' just flown in at the last minutes at 1st rate cut throat prices .Desperate people with desperate poor forward planning get to pay at desperate price
That is the story about horses .The human factor is another story .
The Americans and French ,for any important event such as WEC appoints their CDQ 2 years ahead in advance .The CDQ usually is a person who is an all rounder in endurance ,preferably has indepth knowledge of competition at the highest level .Would be great if at the same time he or she is also an efficient 'water carrier' for the team but this is not the most important of his pre-qualications .
CDQ of any respectable team call the shots in term of team selection ,strategy and discipline ,so by this alone he cannot be a 'water carrier ' .Usually fears no one .Usually the 'cerebral man' of the team .Becky Hart of America ,for example inspires confidence , even though unfortunately America did not do well this time and for many years now .The late Pierre Cazes of France was the best example and I think France Endurance missed him very much .
Malaysia change our CDQ for whatever reasons just weeks before WEC .I am still curious .Perhaps in future if Dato Awang decides to stop competing he could well be our next CDQ ?How about it Dato ?
Exclusivity Vs Inclusivity :
For sometime now I have sadly watched that Malaysian Endurance has moved towards exclusivity :certain individuals with certain State and personal affiliation got 'invited' to oversea rides time and again at the exclusion of more experienced and able riders .This trend really started way before this WEC ,even before the ill fated Asian Games .In a system where point accumulation was important this practice put most very experienced people 'excluded' out of the ball game and edged out into the wilderness .And this was done with public funding ,not private .
Ours is a very small fraternity ,inclusivity is better than exclusivity if we are still interested in the 'quantum' leapt .
From our standard 12 kph to Maria Mercedes 's 18 ,indeed we need a quantum leapt .We need to believe in ourselves .We need to prepare our own horses and not depend on people in far away lands .We need to get 1st rate horses if we pay at 1sr rate prices .We need to have 'ilm' ilm and ilm.They is no short cut .We need people with Ilm to plan and take charge .We need plain honest people with passion .We need change .
If you ask Maria as to how she prepare Nobby : It is sheer hard work and there is only one word repeated thrice in her vocabulary : conditioning ,conditioning and conditioning .No ISN or government handouts there .
As I look into the dark moonless night towards the swells in the South China Sea on this desolate beach somewhere in Batu Burok and reminiese back to 2002 , I felt like it was only like yesterday that I had that fateful conversation or rather advice [ a very bad habit of dr nik ,always .Does not know his place this insolent chap ,always planting 'ideas' ] the then younger Sultan Mizan riding with an elderly looking chap [ Dato Jaafar ]hacking on the beach while waiting for the 'buka puasa' azan .I was on my way to Kota Bharu and stopped at Primula for 'buka puasa'.
"Tuanku ,if Tuanku really want to open Tuanku and Malaysia to the world ,Tuanku should stop just hacking around and be in Endurance .The best teacher is Dato Awang of Kiara .He is our SEA Games champion ".
Malaysia WEC .We have indeed come a long way .But we have to be honest with ourselves .We need to change our ways .Otherwise 'pi mai pi mai dok tang tu jugak ': We are champion at forms rather than substance !