The Sarawak state government will spend RM10.9 million to develop its athletes in an effort to make the state a sports powerhouse in the country within the next two years.

Minister of Tourism, Arts, Youth and Sports Datuk Abdul Karim Hamzah said the allocation will be used to organise the Sarawak Games (SUKSA) in December and for preparing and training the athletes for the 2018 Perak Sukma (Malaysia Games).

The state government only allocated RM3 million for the the Sarawak contingent to 2016 Sarawak Sukma.

Abdul Karim said the big allocation was to meet the wish of Sarawakians who want Sarawak to win the Sukma overall champion title after 23 years.

"We came close to winning the overall champion title in 2016 Sarawak Sukma but we were denied of a grand podium finish after a few gold medals slipped from our hands.

"That moments of glory were so near yet so far but such fate will not deter our spirit of becoming overall champion the next time around," he told reporters after the opening the Sarawak Sukma Weightlifting Training Centre at CrossFit Kuching in Jalan Wan Alwi, here today.

Sarawak won the Sukma overall champion title on three occasions, in 1990, 1992 and 1994.

Abdul Karim said Sarawak has started strategic planning to prepare its athletes and contingent to become the overall champion of 2018 Perak Sukma.

"More national, regional and international sports tournaments will be brought to Sarawak to encourage more Sarawakians to love sports and to discourage youth from involving in social ill activities.

"More foreign coaches will also be hired to prepare the state athletes. Capable local coaches will always be given priority."

On the opening of the training centre today, Abdul Karim said it was part of Sarawak''s early preparation for the 2018 Perak Sukma.

Seven elite weightlifters are undergoing a regimented training programme under experienced coaches and trainers from Sarawak State Sports Council led by Edmund Yeo Thian Chuan and assisted by Sylvia Buda.

Another 10 athletes wil join the training programme after their SPM examination and SUKSA.

The 2018 Perak Sukma offers 96 medals of which 32 are gold medals.

In 2016 Sarawak Sukma, Sarawak only won one gold, three silver and three bronze medals in weightlifting.

In 2014 Perlis Sukma, Sarawak won two gold, three silver and one bronze medal.

Pahang is the team to beat in weightlifting having won seven gold medals, four silver and one bronze in 2016 Sarawak Sukma.