KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 11 — Veteran athletes hoping to compete in next year’s Cambodia SEA Games must surpass the Category A qualifying mark, which is the third-placing mark of the previous Games.

The decision was made at the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) Selection Committee meeting here which stipulated that only athletes aged 23 and below will be able to represent the country under Category B.

Although the qualifying requirements for Category A (third-placing mark of the previous Games for individual sports and top four for teams) and Category B (top six) have not changed compared to previous editions, the decision today, however, means that only young athletes will be considered for Category B.

Selection Committee chairman Tan Sri Mohamad Norza Zakaria said this was the best platform for the national sports associations (NSAs) to showcase young athletes who shone during the recent 20th Malaysia Games (Sukma).

“From the very beginning, we have been saying that the SEA Games is a development Games. It requires us to send young athletes for exposure, this is not the Commonwealth Games, Asian Games or Olympics.

“This is the time for the NSAs, based on the last Sukma results, to ensure that they have ‘pelapis’ (back-up athletes) at the international level. And what’s the best way than to use the SEA Games to introduce young athletes,” he told a media conference after the meeting.

Mohamad Norza, who is also the president of OCM and Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM), said that BAM, for example, had given shuttlers as young as 16 and 17 the opportunity to compete in the Hanoi SEA Games in May.

He also hinted that the age limit for Category B may be lowered to 21 years and below for the next SEA Games edition following the Sukma age limit returning to 21 and below after this.

This year’s Sukma saw the age limit raised to 23 years for athletes who had registered for the 2020 Sukma, before it was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

As for international meets, all participation costs for athletes under Category A will be borne by the OCM, while the expenses for Category B will be borne by the athletes or associations involved, but they will be reimbursed should they win a medal.

However, as for new sports and those which are not OCM affiliates, like e-sports, wrestling, fin swimming, jiujitsu, jetski, arnis and vovinam, the committee will make a separate assessment, with additional regulations to be decided later.

Others in the Selection Committee are National Sports Council (NSC) director-general Datuk Ahmad Shapawi Ismail, National Sports Institute (NSI) chief executive officer Ahmad Faedzal Md Ramli and two independent members — former NSC director-general Datuk Mazlan Ahmad and former national athletics head coach Zainal Abas. — Bernama