|Year : 2023 | Volume
| Issue : 1 | Page : 14-20
Comparing Malaysian and international track and field records through strength, weaknesses, opportunity and threats analysis to formulate strategies for performance improvement
Jin Seng Thung1, Jianhong Gao2, Christopher Pok Yong Hao3, Nur Zubillah Azis3, Mohd Quasyairy Ajmain Mohd Amin3, Min See3, Emy Nor Asmieza Mohd Nor3, Mohamad Fajar Mohamed Kasim3, Mohammad Hazwan Nizam Fazil3, Lian Yee Kok4
1 Research and Innovation Division, National Sports Institute of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
2 Department of Sport Studies, Faculty of Educational Studies, University Putra Malaysia, Selangor, Malaysia
3 Department of Sports Performance, National Sports Institute of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
4 Department of Sport and Exercise Science, Tunku Abdul Rahman University of Management and Technology, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
|Date of Submission||30-Nov-2022|
|Date of Decision||09-Jun-2023|
|Date of Acceptance||10-Jun-2023|
|Date of Web Publication||27-Jun-2023|
Jin Seng Thung
Research and Innovation Division, National Sports Institute of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
Introduction: Resources for improving Malaysian track and field performance are limited and this may lead to gradual performance decrement at both local and international levels. The objective of this study was to assess current Malaysian outdoor track and field performance against regional multi-sport games.
Methods: A historical analysis approach was conducted to understand previous track and field records through examination and interpretation of available online archives. A total of 179 records from the Malaysian Open, Malaysian National Records, Southeast Asian Games (SG), Asian Games (AG) and Commonwealth Games (CG) were identified from online databases and converted into World Athletics score points for the analysis of strength, weaknesses, opportunity and threats.
Results: The results revealed that 11 events (eight males and three females) were identified as Malaysian strengths that were highly likely to succeed in upcoming SG.
Conclusions: A few Malaysian records were set decades ago and there is a significant decrease in performance. Considerable attention is needed to close the performance gaps with other countries and unveil the true performance potential of Malaysian track and field athletes. A long-term development programme for talent recruitment, coach development, technology utilisation and nurturing the local competitive environment is needed to meet the AG and CG standards.
Keywords: Malaysian track and field records, performance improvement, strength, weaknesses, opportunity and threats
|How to cite this article:|
Thung JS, Gao J, Hao CP, Azis NZ, Amin MQ, See M, Nor EN, Kasim MF, Fazil MH, Kok LY. Comparing Malaysian and international track and field records through strength, weaknesses, opportunity and threats analysis to formulate strategies for performance improvement. Malays J Mov Health Exerc 2023;12:14-20
|How to cite this URL:|
Thung JS, Gao J, Hao CP, Azis NZ, Amin MQ, See M, Nor EN, Kasim MF, Fazil MH, Kok LY. Comparing Malaysian and international track and field records through strength, weaknesses, opportunity and threats analysis to formulate strategies for performance improvement. Malays J Mov Health Exerc [serial online] 2023 [cited 2023 Sep 25];12:14-20. Available from: http://www.mohejournal.org/text.asp?2023/12/1/14/379847
| Introduction|| |
In general, performances in track and field, or athletics, are gauged through measurements of time or distance. 'Track and field' is a term that is normally used to include events that are contested by athletes within a stadium while 'athletics' can include events that are performed outside, such as marathons and road races (Venkat, 2021). To assess the standard and progression of performances by athletes across different events and levels of competitions, the World Athletics Scoring Tables (Spririev and Spririev, 2022) have been widely used. Although the scoring tables have gone through a number of updates and revisions over the years, their basic purpose is to offer a starting point for comparisons. This helps to determine if performance levels of any track and field event have progressed, regressed or maintained previous levels. While there have been criticisms about the lack of clarity of calculation methods, World Athletics has stated that the scoring tables are not perfect but are useful enough to help evaluate the changes in performance. The scoring tables are also utilised to compute specific rankings of performances each year in most events. Rankings are then used to determine which athletes qualify to compete at competitions such as the Olympics or World Championships. To obtain rankings, scores from the scoring tables are used to get an athlete's 'result score' during the finals of a competition, and together with a 'placing score' that is determined from the athlete's finishing position and the points for that level of competition, the athlete obtains a 'ranking score' for the event. In addition, the points from the World Athletic Scoring Tables and rankings allow athletes from different countries to estimate their potential for being successful at regional and world-class competitions.
Malaysia has previously been considered a powerhouse of Asian athletics in the 1960s, and Southeast Asian athletics in the 1990s (The Star, 2013). However, recent athletic performances have suggested that Malaysian athletes seemed unable to match the performances of their current regional rivals. Despite world records being frequently renewed, a number of Malaysian athletics records remain unchanged for decades. The oldest Malaysian national athletics record (outdoor) is the men's 200-m record set by Ramli Ahmad in 1976 (List of Malaysian Records in Athletics, 2022). Furthermore, a previous study revealed that Malaysian athletes had a large negative performance gap compared with athletes participating in international athletic events, with differences ranging 5.3%–71.0% (Ballard et al., 2016). This suggests that Malaysian athletic performances seemed to be declining, emphasising the need for the athletics authorities to identify the events so that Malaysian athletes have better chances to narrow the gap with their rivals. Talented athletes suited for these events will need support from sports governing bodies and associations to train without interruption using resources that are sufficient, scientific and technologically advanced. However, the amount of recognition, publicity and supporting resources that sports associations and bodies acquire is commonly evaluated through the number of podium finishers and winners (Raysmith et al., 2019).
In order to achieve higher numbers of podium finishers, data that reflect an accurate and fact-based comparison of Malaysian athletics performance compared to regional and higher-level international competitions are urgently needed. The simplest and most straightforward way, and also the objective of this study, would be to convert Malaysian National Records (NR), Malaysian Open 2022 (MO), Southeast Asian Games (SG), Asian Games (AG) and Commonwealth Games (CG) athletics records into standardised points using the World Athletic Scoring Tables (Spririev & Spririev, 2022). These converted standardised data would then be analysed through an analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) to help Malaysian athletics authorities gain data-driven comprehension so that strategic plans to improve athletic performances can be formulated.
| Methods|| |
A historical analysis approach was conducted to obtain, examine and interpret available records from athletics to draw appropriate and meaningful conclusions. Publicly accessible internet databases were used to acquire Malaysian, Southeast Asian, Asian and Commonwealth Games records for individual events. These records were then converted into score points based on the 2022 World Athletic Scoring Table (World Athletics, 2022). The points from existing world records were then used as criterion measures for comparisons.
The inclusion criteria for the data used in the analysis are the records from individual track and field events that are contested within a stadium, excluding relays or combined events. This ruled out walking events, marathons, relays and the combined events known as heptathlon and decathlon. The 3000 m event was also disregarded it is no longer being contested in the competitions included in the analysis. Keywords such as 'SEA games track and field records', 'Asian games track and field records', 'Commonwealth Games track and field records', 'Malaysia Open 2022 track and field records' and 'Malaysian National Records' were used to obtain event record lists (List of Malaysian Records in Athletics, 2022; Pirie, 2022; List of Southeast Asian Games Records in Athletics, 2022; List of Asian Games Records in Athletics, 2022; List of Commonwealth Games Records in Athletics, 2022). A total of 179 records (male = 90; female = 89) attained before 15 August 2022 from 18 track and field events at different levels of international competitions (SG = 36; AG = 36; CG = 36; MO = 35 and NR = 36) were identified and used for analysis. These records were then converted into score points based on the 2022 World Athletic Scoring Table (World Athletics, 2022). The converted data are tabulated in [Table 1].
Descriptive analysis of means and standard deviations was computed to evaluate central tendency and range of variation from the central tendency using IBM SPSS Statistics for Windows, Version 26.0. Armonk, NY, USA. During the analysis, track and field events were analysed individually or classified into event categories such as sprints (100 m, 200 m, 400 m), middle-distance events (800 m, 1500 m), long-distance events (5000 m, 10 km), hurdles (100 m/110 m hurdles, 400 m hurdles, 3000 m steeplechase), jumps (high jump, pole vault, long jump and triple jump) and throws (shot put, discus throw, hammer throw and javelin throw). Event records for each competition (SG, AG, CG and MO) and also the NR were compared using the World Athletic Scoring Table 2022 as a standardised point system. Subsequently, mean overall points (standardised points for the sum of all events/total number of events) were identified for each competition and all NRs combined.
Basic analyses were performed and they involved: (i) standardised score comparisons between NR events with the same events from SG, AG, CG and MO; (ii) comparisons of mean standardised scores by event categories (mean score points for all events in an event category) between NR event categories with the same event categories from SG, AG, CG and MO; (iii) determination of the relative level of competitiveness of each competition and NR by comparing mean overall points as percentages relative to the maximum points awarded by the World Athletic Scoring Table 2022 (1400 points). These analyses were then used to organise and interpret data according to an analysis of SWOT.
Strength analysis focused on identifying MO or NR that scored higher than the mean overall NR points (male = 1073 points, female = 1033 points), or scored points that matched SG, AG or CG records. This analysis would be an indicator of the current capability of Malaysian track and field athletes. The analysis of weakness established the performance gaps (in percentages) between NR and MO by events and event categories with the maximal performance score, giving data that could help athletics authorities determine events that should get immediate training resources and help, as opposed to events that should be targeted for long-term development. The analysis of opportunities was used to compare the current strength of Malaysian track and field during MO 2022 against international performance that was weak as represented by SG, AG and CG records that scored below mean overall scores. Finally, the analysis of threats focused on the identification of potential rivals from other countries who compete in events that are listed are opportunities for Malaysian athletes.
| Results|| |
As an indicator of strength, 10 male national records [Table 1] scored higher than the NR mean overall points (1073), namely track events such as the 100 m, 200 m, 400 m and 800 m and the 110 m hurdles, while the field events were the discus throw, high jump, long jump, triple jump and pole vault. Seven NR matched or scored higher points than corresponding SG events (100 m, 800 m, 110 m hurdles, high jump, triple jump, discus and hammer throws). No MO event scored points higher than the NR mean overall points but the MO hammer throw score was higher than the corresponding SG event points. It is worth highlighting that the men's NR for the 1500 m (SG point = 1036, NR point = 1031) and 5000 m (SG point = 984, NR point = 977) would be considered competitive in the SG.
Unfortunately, no male Malaysian track and field performance scored above AG and CG standards. Strength analysis for female events indicated that 11 NR points were above the mean overall NR score (1033 points). These events by categories were the sprints (100 m, 200 m, 400 m), middle (800 m) and long-distance running (10 km), hurdles (100 m, 400 m) and the jumps (high jump, long jump, triple jump and pole vault). Only three NR (400 m hurdles, pole vault and hammer throw) and one MO (hammer throw) event points were better than their corresponding SG event scores. Similar to the men's strength analysis, no MO performance was better than the mean NR standard, and no Malaysian female performance was near AG or CG standards.
As stated earlier, the analysis of weakness was carried out by examining the percentage gap in performance between the maximum score possible (1400 points) with the mean overall score of CG, AG and SG to determine the differences in the level of competitiveness for these competitions, and how MO and NR compared in terms of competitiveness with these competitions. As shown in [Table 1], the relative competitive standard for both genders of CG (male = 87.93%; female = 86.65%) was the highest, followed by AG (male = 85.23%; female = 84.93%), SG (male = 77.52%; female = 78.60%), NR (male = 76.64%; female = 73.77%), with the lowest being MO (male = 66.27%; female = 57.49%).
[Table 1] also indicates the large relative overall performance gaps between MO and NR to AG and CG, and the competition that was nearest in terms of competitiveness was SG. The relative male overall NR standard was on par with the relative male overall SG competitiveness standard while the relative female overall NR competitiveness standard was slightly below the relative overall SG competitiveness standard but the MO 2022 standards were much lower than the SG level. Comparing the MO and NR relative overall performance standard gaps, the female gap was larger (16.28%) than the gap for male athletes (10.37%). The comparison of performance by event indicated that only the MO hammer throw performance matched the NR standard for both male and female athletes [Figure 1]. When the performance was analysed through event categories [Figure 2], both male and female athletes shared a similar performance gap trend. The female performance gaps were consistently greater than the male counterpart except in the throws. The event category with the highest performance gap (weakest) was long-distance running followed by middle distance, hurdles, sprints, jumps and throws.
|Figure 1: Malaysian National Records and Malaysia open track and field score points (a) male (b) female|
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|Figure 2: Athletics points gap between National Records and Malaysia Open performance by event categories|
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The analysis of opportunities used a strength-weaknesses quadrant to focus on events that Malaysian athletic performance may have a historical competitive advantage against international standards, the most viable being SG. From the analysis of strength at SG level (male = 13 and female = 12), Malaysian athletes possess a competitive advantage against their regional rivals (male = 8, female = 3) in 11 events [Figure 3]. The men's 100 m, 110 m hurdles, high jump, long jump, triple jump and women's 400 m hurdles were in the NR strength-SG strength quadrant. This quadrant requires the most attention and resources to obtain and maintain a competitive advantage of the current performance. On the other hand, the men's 800 m and discus throw, and the women's pole vault events are in the NR strength-SG weakness quadrant while the hammer throws for both genders are in the NR weakness-SG weakness quadrant. Both these two quadrants require consistent supporting resources to continually improve the performance ceiling.
|Figure 3: Strengths-weaknesses plot between SG and NR. SG: Southeast Asian games, NR: Malaysian National Records, M: Men's events, W: Women's event|
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When analysing achievement, immediate-, short- and long-term success were classified by performance gaps (percentage difference) between MO and NR that were no more than 10%, between 10% and 20%, and more than 20%, respectively. Therefore, the men's events that could bring immediate success include the hammer throw (1%), triple jump (6.3%), 110 m hurdles (7.5%), 800 m (8.1%) and long jump (8.8%). The discus throw (12.2%), 5000 m (12.3%), 100 m (13.7%) and high jump (15%) events were deemed possible targets for short-term success, while the 1500 m (24.9%) was considered an event for long-term development. Three women's events (400 m hurdles, pole vault and hammer throw) were identified for immediate-term development programmes with performance gaps of 5.7%, 9.1% and 16.9%, respectively. Although the women's hammer throw was greater than the 10% performance gap, the MO performance was 4.5% higher than SG standard, indicating this as an opportunity.
Threat analyses were conducted to identify the primary opponents of Malaysian track and field athletes in SG, AG and CG. According to the opportunity analysis in SG for men's events, the main Malaysian rivals were athletes from Indonesia in the 100 m and the long jump events, athletes from Thailand in the 110 m hurdles and hammer throw, and Singapore athletes in the discus throw event. The rivals for the men's 800 m, high jump and triple jump were athletes from Malaysia. On the other hand, the rival for the women's events were from Vietnam (400 m hurdles), the Philippines (pole vault) and Malaysia (hammer throw).
| Discussion|| |
The objective of this study was to investigate the competitiveness of Malaysian track and field performance compared with existing records from the SG, AG and the CG which are the major multi-sport games targeted for participation by the Malaysian Olympic Council. The current results revealed that eight male and three female events were identified as strengths with a high likelihood of success in the SG. Although some of the Malaysian records are decades old, Malaysian track and field performance is seen to have decreased, and focused attention is needed immediately to help close the performance gap with regional rivals.
Talent scouting and development is a combination of science and the arts. Despite the athlete's genetic contribution to performance (Marc et al., 2017), his/her talent can be amplified due to adaptions from specific stimuli induced by the process of motor development that needs to start from the beginning of training (Katic et al., 2008). Even though previous research indicated that beginning athletes who produced outstanding performance during early competitions is not a prerequisite for success when competing at more competitive levels later (Kearney and Hayes, 2018), talent scouting at the youth level is still a common practice in many countries. Talent scouting based on youth competition performance, especially in the sprints, hurdles, throws and jumps events for boys, have a high tendency to recruit those whose birth dates are from the earlier months of a year into a talent development programme, while discouraging or overlooking those who mature later leading to premature programme dropouts and lower performance standards when athletes reach higher competitive levels (Hollings et al., 2014). Talent selection has been suggested to lead to early specialisation and higher risks of injuries and burnout. The consequences of this age-related selection effect may explain why many Malaysian track and field records remain intact for decades. The Malaysian talent programme requires a quick fix to recruit talent who are most likely to be podium finishers into the programme. Athletic authorities should promote more remarkable performance advancement by providing better-organised training and practice structure and activities for developing athletes to develop and reveal their true potential (Gullich, 2018; Moinat, Fabius, & Emanuel, 2018).
Other than concentrating on talent selection and development, there are other essential strategies related to performance development and progression such as developing coaches' skills and expertise (Hastie et al., 2013). While the path for developing athletes' potential is better established via long-term athlete development plans, most countries lack quality coach education and development programmes. A coach development programme should be designed in a way that every new coach has a career development path that allows him/her to progress under the guidance of a mentor coach. Previous research (Hettinga et al., 2019; Tucker et al., 2006) have suggested that experienced coaches are better able to evaluate and determine pacing strategies according to events, optimise performance and even refine the technique of well-established athletes. These skills are learned through knowledge and experience, and the mentorship given by expert coaches to beginner coaches is essential for helping the beginner coaches learn efficiently, gather coaching experience with fewer mistakes, and ensure there are capable coaches to replace retiring coaches to ensure the continuity of athlete development programmes. The necessity of summarising experiences, refining training protocols and synthesising new knowledge are critical coach education activities (Kearney, Carson, & Collins, 2018) that can develop coaches who can lead to track and field record renewal in Malaysia. Coach mentors can be located within and outside Malaysia. Since most Malaysian track and field records are far behind AG and CG standards, an essential strategy would be to establish a good rapport with renowned regional coaches to gain advanced knowledge and mentoring support.
One other approach to help Malaysian track and field athletes improve their performance is to augment the utilisation of innovation and technology. The coach needs to continually stay current with advanced knowledge and technical development to prepare athletes for long-term success. Performance progression in athletes depends on the depth of innovation and technology utilisation (Lippi, Banfi, Favaloro, Rittweger, & Maffulli, 2008). The implementation of sleeping hygiene (Samuels, 2009), fluid (Shirreffs et al., 2007) and hydration strategies (Periard et al., 2017) for recovery, cooling strategy using ice vests when competing in the heat (Racinais et al., 2021), and the required size of the supporting medical team for performance and also injury and illnesses prevention (Edouard et al., 2019) are factors that have a potential impact on marginal gains for athletes during competitions. In addition, advanced technology innovations such as blood screening protocols are needed throughout training and as required by competition to ensure athletes comply with fair play and clean sports performance regulations (Aguilar-Navarro et al., 2021), and improved performances are from good training practices. Current coaching set-ups involve a medical team, rehabilitation specialists and sports scientists led by head coaches. Therefore, the quality and competency of a fully integrated coaching team need to be nurtured and adopted for optimum performance throughout training and competition.
| Conclusion|| |
Malaysian performance in track and field events requires a great deal of attention to revamping the current programme to improve athletes' competitiveness at SG level. More effort needs to be given to talent recruitment, coach development, technology utilisation and nurturing the local competitive environment. AG and CG performance standards are currently beyond Malaysian athlete's reach and performance improvement requires long-term effort from all sports authorities.
Financial support and sponsorship
Conflicts of interest
There are no conflicts of interest.
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[Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3]