September 9 - Malaysia is earmarking RM16 million (£2.7 million) to train 19 athletes led by badminton world number one Lee Chong Wei (pictured) to help it try to deliver the nation's first Olympic gold medal at the 2012 London Games, it announced today.

Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who chaired the Cabinet Committee on Sports meeting , said that athletes in archery, badminton, cycling and diving would be given undivided support in terms of international exposure and sports science expertise as part of the Government-backed Road to London scheme.

He said: “The RM16 million will cover the preparations for now until the 2012 Olympics.

“We also plan to start a programme to get the public to lend strong moral support to the athletes who will compete in the Olympics.

"Hopefully, we will be able to win our first Olympic gold medal in London.”

The package will include sending Malaysia's top athletes abroad to train.

In July a deal was arranged between Malaysia and Bath University to be used as a training camp in the build-up to London 2012.

Synchronised divers Pandelela Rinong and Leong Mun Yee, who were the bronze medallists in the World Championships in Rome in July, are the most recent additions to the Road to London programme, which was launched February.

But Wei, 26, remains the country's biggest hope.

He won the Olympic silver medal in the men's singles at Beijing last year and has been ranked as the world number one since August 2008.

Wei's medal was the fourth won by a Malaysian badminton player since the sport was introduced into the Olympics in 1992.

It helped the South East Asian country, which gained independence from Britain in 1957, finish 74th in the medals table in Beijing.
But the country of 27.4 million is still desperately waiting for its first gold medal and the Government is investing more resources than ever before to try to secure it in London.

Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek said that the list of athletes being financially helped in the build-up to 2012 would be reviewed from time to time.

He said: “We may include athletes from other sports if they prove that they can win medals at the world level, just like the divers.

"We will also review the position of those in the programme if they get injured or are unable to sustain their form over a certain period."

Shabery also handed out a total of RM258,000 (£50,000) as rewards to the Malaysian gold medallists at the Asean Para Games in Kuala Lumpur last month.

Malaysia finished second in the medal standings behind Thailand with a haul of 202 medals, including 82 gold.

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