STILL on the Beijing Olympics. A friend who's an active sportsman gave one word to describe the success of so many athletes in the international stage - DISCIPLINE! Nothing can be achieved - no matter how talented the person is - without discipline, this friend said.
And if we watch the Olympics closely, and listen to the commentaries attentively, we can know why some athletes do well than others. I mean, how else can one explain the success of these gold medal winners, who continue to stay focus and remain competitive at the highest level possible.
Usain Bolt won't get on the podium if not for proper coaching, guidance and discipline. He has talent no doubt. But talent alone won't win him medals and global admiration.
South African swimmer Natalie du Toit, am amputee who finished 16th in the women's 10km marathon swim, would put many people to shame with her display of guts and undivided attention to seek excellence despite her hardship.
A news wire report quoted her: "I've been through a lot of ups and down. I missed my place in the Commonwealth Games in 1998, then I missed out on the Sydney Olympics..and then there was the motor accident in 2001. You have to keep your dreams and never give them up."
The Olympics also have inspiring stories about athletes who stayed in shape and keep coming back to improve their performance. They become household names, wise with experience and exposure. And when they are ready, they pass on useful tips to guide younger team mates.
Age is just a number to these fine athletes. You get women athletes who get to the final stages of their chosen event after marriage, given birth to babies and still harbour dreams of becoming a world champion. And there's the long-distance runner who, despite not landing any medal at the Birds' Nest, promise to return even when he's past 40 by that time.
We are also told of athletes who train overseas and compete regularly with record breakers and legends. They sacrifice home and family comforts (no sambal belacan, roti canai or yong tau fu). And you get goose pimples when they stand on the podium as their national anthem is played...
The big sporting countries have no monopoly on gold medals and world records. Competing countries have to go out on the track and court to stake a claim on victories founded on talent, discipline, guts, guidance and, better still, with no politician wanting to micro-manage sports and using it to seek political mileage.
Can Malaysia make that leap and write its own history of success that inspire others? Can politicians not place their political agendas side by side with sportsmen? Often, sports matters will be compromised if politics were to also make their play.