“Their swimmers train in the Indian Ocean and the women soccer and handball players haven’t managed a goal between them at the Asian Games, but the Maldives says it does not care about success — yet,” writes the AFP.
“Getting 142 athletes from the poor islands, best known as a honeymoon paradise, to the Games in Incheon, South Korea, has already been an achievement, according to team leaders.
And a Muslim nation insisting that at least a third of the team should be women has also raised eyebrows among fellow Islamic states.
South Korean fans have taken to their hearts the athletes from a nation of less than 350,000 who have yet to win a medal at the Asian Games or Olympics.
The swimmers are often still battling in the pool long after rivals have finished. The women’s footballers conceded 38 goals in three matches without scoring and Japan beat their handball team by a huge 79-0.
But Maldives Olympic Committee secretary general Ahmed Marzooq said the results do not matter.
“Just before we came I told the athletes that there would be criticism and comments. But I told them, ‘We don’t care about any result that comes, just perform, just enjoy the Games.'”
In an indication of the difficulties their athletes face, swimmers Nishwan Ibrahim and Aishath Sajina have to train in the Indian Ocean — at night — off the capital Male.
‘We swim in the sea and there’s a current and lots of rubbish, and it’s dark,” Ibrahim told AFP. “We don’t have any swimming pools. It’s really different from the pool here. It’s difficult in the pool, the sea is more buoyant.’ ”