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Editor's Note: The story has been updated with a statement by Low Wee Wern on 12 January.
The National Sports Council (NSC) has apologised to squash player Low Wee Wern for any untoward feelings as a result of dropping her from their full-time training programme
NSC recently announced that they were downsizing the number of athletes from their Podium Programme due to cuts in government funding.
The number of full-time athletes was reduced from 432 to 288, and the cuts involved not renewing the contracts of some high profile athletes in Malaysia, including Low.
According to New Straits Times, following criticism from various parties, NSC released a statement on Tuesday, 11 January, apologising to the former squash world number five, who expressed dissatisfaction that she was told without forewarning.
NSC explained that they did hold engagement sessions with their squash athletes to highlight the terminations, but Low was not in attendance at their conclusive meeting
"NSC held engagement sessions with squash athletes on 12 December to highlight the expiry of the contract by 31 December, and that the offer for 2022 will only be decided during the joint committee meeting on 17 December," read the statement by NSC.
When the NSC, the National Sports Institute, the Squash Racquets Association of Malaysia (SRAM), and the Olympic Council of Malaysia collectively decided not to retain some athletes, they held an engagement session again on 18 December, which they said Low did not attend.
SRAM later shared the details of the committee's decision with Low, said NSC.
"With that said, NSC would like to apologise if there are any unpleasant feelings that emerged from this episode, and we always have the best interest of all athletes at heart."
"NSC is, however, willing to discuss future plans with Wee Wern and our doors are always open for her," they added.
Meanwhile, NSC Athletes Division director Jefri Ngadirin said athletes who have been dropped from Podium Programme may return if they prove themselves during upcoming training stints
Jefri said they are currently discussing with national sports associations to implement a six-week training progamme as well as host several domestic competitions to give athletes the chance to train and qualify for the SEA Games in Hanoi, Vietnam in May.
"We will decide the details for this training and the upcoming competitions over the next week. If the athletes qualify for the SEA Games, we will absorb them (back) into our training programmes," he told Bernama.
"If they succeed in meeting the qualifying marks for the SEA Games, namely the bronze medal time, distance, or marks from the previous edition, they will get direct access to all facilities provided, besides being eligible for the allowances."
According to him, the NSC will provide accommodation, food, and other facilities to athletes involved during the six-week training that will be held in stages.
He added that the reduction in training allowances for athletes who have won medals — another budget cut announced by NSC last week — was needed to ensure athletes keep recording better results
"We can't just go on sentiment, must be based on current performance," he said.
According to Astro Awani, under the restructuring of the allowances, Olympic and Paralympic gold medallists will now receive an allowance of RM7,500 monthly, followed by RM7,000 for silver medallists, and RM6,000 for bronze medallists.
Meanwhile, Commonwealth Games, Asian Games, and Asian Para Games gold medallists will receive RM4,500, followed by RM4,000 for silver medallists, and RM3,500 for bronze medallists.
SEA Games and ASEAN Para Games gold medallists will receive RM2,000, while silver and bronze medallists will receive RM800.
Senior athletes in the programme who have not won any medals will receive RM800, while backup athletes will get RM500.
In 2019, a review of allowances saw Olympic and Paralympic Games medal winners receiving RM7,500 for any medal, the Asian Games and Asian Para Games winners receiving RM6,000, the Commonwealth Games receiving RM3,500, while the SEA Games and ASEAN Para Games received the same.
Besides that, according to The Vibes, only 45 para-athletes had their contracts renewed this year, compared to 114 in 2021, while only 178 backup athletes were given spots, compared to 260 last year.
A total of 144 full-time national athletes were cut from the NSC training programme this year due to lack of funding: