PENANG IS HOME to numerous top athletes in Malaysia. Among them is Datuk Nicol Ann David, who won numerous titles across all the most prestigious tournaments in squash. Chan Peng Soon, the silver medallist for badminton mixeddoubles in the Rio Olympics 2016, also hails from Penang. This reflects that Penang athletes are active participants in international, regional and national sporting events.
In the last three editions of the Commonwealth Games, Penang athletes made up less than 10% of Malaysia’s team (Delhi 2010: 8.9%, Glasgow 2014: 8.8%, Gold Coast 2018: 7.3%). The ratio of male to female athletes are quite even, as seen in Table 1. The number of Penang athletes are highest in badminton, hockey and squash.
Penang has significantly contributed to Malaysia’s medal tally at the Commonwealth Games. The best performance was at Glasgow 2014. The athletes’ contribution was 31.6% of total medals, where they accounted for 50% of gold medals. However, the performance was less stellar in the next edition of the games, as seen in Table 2, where the total contribution of medals dropped to only 16.7%.
The percentage of Penang athletes at the Asian Games hovered close to 7% for Guangzhou 2010 and Incheon 2014, but increased to 8.6% for Palembang 2018. Malaysia’s team for Palembang 2018 was also significantly larger, possibly due to our close proximity with Indonesia, as well as the addition of team sports such as sepak takraw and handball that are popular in the southeast Asian region. Male and female athletes were evenly distributed across the categories of sport (with the exception of target sports) during Guangzhou 2010, but were more varied in the following editions, with more females in target sports and more males in ball sports (Figure 1). Water sports for Palembang 2018 was seen to be overly male-dominated, and this was due to a male canoeing team of 15.
Penang athletes recorded their best performance in Incheon 2014, where they won 42.4% of the Malaysian contingent’s overall medals. In fact, 60% of the gold medals were contributed by Penang’s sportspeople, mostly through individual and team events in squash. Nevertheless, Palembang 2018 was less successful for Penang, where numerical and percentage wise, they won the least amount of medals across the three editions.
The number of Penang athletes was the highest in the 2015 Singapore Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, standing at 10% of the Malaysian contingent. Surprisingly, only 6.4% of Malaysian athletes are Penangnites for the 2017 Kuala Lumpur Games. The total number of male and female athletes were almost equivalent with the exception of the Philippines Games 2019, where female athletes were about two-thirds of male athletes. This was due to the higher number of male team sports in ball sports such as rugby and floorball. Overall, male athletes outnumbered female athletes in the category of ball and target sports, whereas the gender mix was more diverse across other categories.
Penang athletes contributed approximately 13% of Malaysia’s overall medals in the Kuala Lumpur 2017 SEA Games, a higher percentage if compared to the latest edition of the Games in the Philippines, where 11.4% of medals were credited to Penang. Of the gold medals obtained during the Kuala Lumpur Games, 13.8% was obtained by Penang athletes, where karate, diving and wushu shone as the best performing sports. Diving and karate continued to contribute gold medals in the Philippines 2019 SEA Games.
Penang’s sports contingent was the largest for the Perak 2018 Malaysian Games (SUKMA), due to a much higher number of sports in competition. The gender ratio for Penang athletes for the three editions of SUKMA was significantly biased towards male athletes, where female athletes were approximately 75%-80% of male athletes, with the highest number and ratio of female athletes participating in the 2018 Perak Games.
As Figure 3 shows, the number of male athletes are higher across all categories of sport, with the exception of target sports (2016) and racquet sports (all editions) where female athletes equalled or outnumbered their male counterparts. There are significantly higher number of males participating in ball sports, owing to male-only teams for football and cricket.
Penang is typically placed in the middle of the medal leaderboard when it comes to the state’s achievement in SUKMA. For the last four editions of the Games, Penang’s placing alternated between the sixth and seventh positions (Figure 4). Penang’s best-ever performances are in the 1988, 1990 and 2006 editions of the Games, where it placed third. In terms of medals obtained (from 2010-2018), the most gold medals were won in Pahang 2012 and Perak 2018; but numerically, Penang won the most medals in Melaka 2010 – a total of 102 medals.