It has come to Malaysians' attention that national cyclists Azizulhashi Awang and Fatehah Mustapa were issued a gag order during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games recently
This was revealed in an article titled, 'Gag order? You cannot be serious' written by one Phuah Shew Beng, a sports journalist. The article was published on The Star Online on 13 August.
Phuah said that national track cycling head coach John Beasley told the journalists at a press conference on 8 August that Azizulhashi Awang and Fatehah Mustapa, Malaysian cyclists who were going to contend in their respective events, will be banned from speaking to the media until all their events were over.
It was also said that the Malaysian divers suffered the same fate.
He expressed disappointment over the restrictions that was imposed on the national athletes as the public are denied the chance to get exclusive updates from them
Phuah argued that Malaysians have "the right to know what is happening on ground" since all of the national athletes are funded by the government, which means that taxpayers contributed to the money that was spent on training them overseas.
He also cited how "athletes from other countries speak and mingle freely with the press" at the International Zone of the Games Village but "Malaysian journalists can only watch in envy".
"We, the sports journalists, are not asking them to comment on politics. It's sports we are interested in," he wrote.
"Talking to the press will put the athletes under more pressure? Now, you can’t be serious."
"My message to them is: Grow up."
Phuah said that our national athletes "are not strong in the head" if they cannot cope with the pressure, adding that world-class athletes like Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps have no such issues and in fact, they "thrive under pressure".
Phuah wrote that he personally thought that "Malaysian athletes are too pampered".
He went on to say that Malaysian athletes are "super sensitive" and they would refuse to speak to the press should the media criticise them.
"When you achieve success, we praise you. But when you fail, you can’t expect us to glorify you. That’s not how it works with the press. We are unbiased in what we do," he concluded.
Meanwhile, Malaysian track cycling head coach John Beasley has responded directly by leaving a comment in the article one day later, on 14 August
He started off by saying that he was sorry Phuah had felt that journalists were denied a chance to hear from the national athletes but Beasley continued by saying that the Malaysians media have always come ill-prepared during a press conference.
"I am sorry you feel that way, I just read your story and it is very typical of the Malaysian press," he wrote.
"I gave you full access to the athletes during the press conference though very few questions were asked, why? Because you guys don't do your homework, why is it that the Malaysian press come to press conferences without doing their homework?"
According to Beasley, the Malaysian press not only lack discipline but relied on spoon-feeding as they never bother to collect information that was readily available and easily accessible online
"All the performance data is out there accessible on the net and yet still you ask us what is your records? Furthermore, we get asked the same old questions every time we are interviewed. I think it's you guys that need a big kick in the backside to do some preparation before coming to interviews."
"I can only speak for cycling here and honestly, you guys call yourself professionals, (but) it's more like a holiday as there is rarely a story worthy of reading as there is no substance in your stories. The Malaysian press are like a broken record," he added.
"We are always open and available to you guys. Let me point out one fact, you got the opportunity to speak to us when we arrived, where is that content? Oh sorry, I had a moment lapse of memory, you did not ask many questions, did you? If you ask me, it is your fault."
The 54-year-old Australian went on to explain about the need of training overseas in the comment
"Yes, we train overseas, I have been well noted for pointing out the reasons why and this is only to give your athletes their best chance to perform on the big stage. We also educate them offshore also, something you guys need a lot more schooling on."
"We are racing the best of the best from all around the world, everybody is a champion that has just qualified to make the games team."
He added that Malaysians never seemed to appreciate their own athletes and often criticised them although these sportsmen and sportswomen have made many sacrifices to train and represent the nation, a chance which many others envied.
"Regardless of what happens here in Rio, we have left no stone unturned on our journey to get here and we have provided Malaysia with some great results over our journey, now grow up and let us get on with doing our job," he wrote at the end of his comment.
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