Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Jega back to Myanmar – where it all began

Tan Sri Dr M. Jegathesan is returning to Myanmar as the medical and doping advisor.
Tan Sri Dr M. Jegathesan is returning to Myanmar as the medical and doping advisor.

KUALA LUMPUR: It will be a nostalgic trip when the former fastest man in Asia – Tan Sri Dr M. Jegathesan heads to Myanmar for the 23rd SEA Games next month.

It was at this same place 52 years ago that the former sprinter Jegathesan made his first international breakthrough at the 1961 SEAP Games in Yangon. He went on a gold medal frenzy – bursting the tape in the 200m, 400m, 4x400m.

After making his presence felt in Yangon, there was no stopping Jegathesan as he went on to make a name for himself and bring glory to the country for over a decade and rightfully earning the nickname “the flying doctor”.

Jegathesan, a doctor by profession, has contributed significantly to Malaysian sports in various capacities.

He has been invited by Myanmar to assume the role of medical and doping advisor.
“I won my first ever international gold medal in my athletics career at the SEAP Games in Yangon. I was 17 years old then. From there, my career in athletics took flight. It will indeed be a nostalgic trip to Myanmar,” said a sprightly Jegathesan, who celebrated his 70th birthday on Nov 2.

“There were just so many spectators for athletics then. Those days, they did not have television so they came in hordes to watch the action in Yangon. The atmosphere was very lively.”

“Then, I was studying in Singapore but represented Malaysia in the SEAP Games. The following year, I went on to win my first Asian Games gold medal. So, Myanmar will always hold a special place in my heart.”

Jegathesan won the 1962 Bangkok Asian Games gold medal – breaking the Games record in 200m with a time 21.3s

He featured in three Olympic Games – in Rome (1960), Tokyo (1964) and Mexico (1968). In Mexico, he made it to the 200m semifinals – posting a blistering time of 20.92s, which still stands as the country’s best timing.

“I still remember the camaraderie we had among the athletics team during that SEAP Games. We had a great bunch like Asir Victor, Nashatar Singh, Rajalingam and Kamaruddin Maidin, to mention a few. It was indeed the beginning of a new era for athletics in the 1960s.

“Those days, Malaysia ruled in sports like athletics, hockey and football, which require athletes to train hard in the scorching heat. They were made of sterner stuff. Now, the trend has changed ... we tend to dominate in indoor sports – like badminton, squash and bowling.

When asked what would be his advice to the current batch of athletes gearing up for Myanmar, he declined, saying that enough had been said.

“It is best that old timers like me keep quiet for now,” said Jegathesan.

His curt answer is understandable. So much of effort, guidance and advice had been given to motivate, empower and lift the standard of the current crop of athletes but the outcome on the track and field has been far from satisfactory.

At the last SEA Games in Indonesia two years ago, Malaysia won six gold medals but the men’s 4x400m relay gold was stripped as relay runner Yunus Lasaleh had tested positive for a banned substance.

Malaysian Athletics Federation (MAF) have set a five-gold medal target in Myanmar. Whether Malaysia will see the birth of another star in Myanmar, just as it did five decades ago, remains to be seen.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

15 new names in Hall of Fame

THE Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) Hall of Fame welcomed 15 new inductees at its annual dinner and Awards Night in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

Among them are wushu exponent Chai Fong Ying, hockey player Lawrence Van Huizen and taekwondo exponents M. Vasugi and R. Dhanaraj.

Fong Ying is a former two-time Asian Games and three-time World Championship gold medallist.
An extensive career in hockey saw Van Huizen being part of the 1964 Olympics squad and playing a pivotal role when Malaysia took the bronze medal at the 1962 Asian Games in Jakarta.

Vasugi is best remembered for clinching bronze at the 1988 Seoul Olympics when taekwondo was a demonstration sport, and winning gold at the 1989 Kuala Lumpur Sea Games. She is also a former two-time Asian Championship bronze medallist.

Dhanaraj took bronze at the 1989 World Championships and also won gold at the Sea Games the same year. He is the current national coach, having assumed the position in 2005.

The 2013 International Olympic Committee Trophy went to the Royal Selangor Club (RSC) for its outstanding contribution to the promotion, development and practice of sports over the years.
The RSC has produced numerous national athletes in the past and consistently organises development programmes for youths in various sports.

The Jonah Jones Rugby Sevens, one of RSC's annual international sports events, recently celebrated its 50th anniversary.

OCM secretary general Datuk Sieh Kok Chi said being inducted into the Hall of Fame is just reward for local personalities who have excelled in their sports, and sports officials of both sexes.
Kok Chi disclosed that the winners of the OCM men's and women's Olympian of the Year awards will only be announced in January as contenders will be judged on their performances at next month's Sea Games.

The other inductees are Aminullah @ Aman Karim (hockey), Lim Heng Check (swimming), Fong Seow Hor (swimming), Arulraj Michael (hockey), Daphne Boudville (hockey, athletics, football), Hector Durairatnam (cricket), Ahmad Mahmud (athletics, rugby), N. Thanabalan (football), Datuk Kamaruddin Abdul Ghani (equestrian), Rosli Abdul Kadir (cycling, walking), Datuk Ow Soon Kooi (hockey).

Sports Ministry secretary general Datuk Jamil Salleh presents the inductees of the OCM Hall of Fame with their awards at their annual dinner at Wisma OCM in Kuala Lumpur yesterday. Pic by Hasriyasyah Sabudin

Marina Chin honoured by OCM

Datuk Marina Chin receiving the Women and Sport award from OCM president Tunku Tan Sri Imran Tuanku Ja'afar at OCM's Annual Dinner and Awards Night on Nov 21, 2013.
Datuk Marina Chin receiving the Women and Sport award from OCM president Tunku Tan Sri Imran Tuanku Ja'afar at OCM's Annual Dinner and Awards Night on Nov 21, 2013.

KUALA LUMPUR: Former track queen Datuk Marina Chin continues to hog the limelight even after leaving the athletics scene nearly three decades ago.

On Thursday, the 58-year-old Marina was recognised for her tireless contributions to Malaysian sport when she was accorded the main honour as recipient of the Women and Sport award at the Olympic Council of Malaysia’s (OCM) 21st Annual Dinner and Awards Night at the Tan Sri Hamzah Hall.
Marina, who is now the principal of the Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS), was picked as the winner by OCM’s Women and Sport committee for her significant and outstanding contributions in the promotion, development and advancement of women in sports.

During the 70s, she was known for her prowess in the 100m hurdles, which saw her winning a total seven gold medals in the SEA Games and also nailing the 1975 and 1976 National Sportswoman of the Year awards.

OCM’s Women and Sport committee chairman Datuk Low Beng Choo said that Marina had grown into an iconic role model for many and deserved the recognition.

“Marina is distinct because she keeps giving back to the country. She was a star in athletics and then she went into coaching and, now, she is empowering so many young athletes as the BJSS principal,” said Beng Choo, who is also the OCM vice-president.

“She has not stopped contributing to the country and has played a key role in sports development. She is indeed a role model for many women.

“I am proud that we have continued to give recognition to women in sports. This is our 11th year hosting this awards ceremony and I am truly grateful to OCM for their continuous support.
“We have seen huge contributions by women athletes in winning medals at major events and we will continue to recognise their tireless work at all levels in the promotion of women in sports.”
Besides Marina, a few other women were also honoured for their contributions.

Penang Squash Association vice-chairman Linda Geh Guat Yeow took home the Women and Sport Leadership award while Ee Hong, the director of the sports division in the Education Ministry, won the Women and Sport Grassroots Development award.

For her achievements as a female technical official (cycling commissioner) at the international level, Beatrice Alfred Lajawa was handed the Technical Achievement award.

The role of parents was also given prominence when Abdul Hadi Ahmad and his wife Kimberley Ann Gagnon were honoured with the OCM Partnership award for their guidance and support towards the success of their daughters – synchronised swimmer Katrina Ann and gymnast Farah Ann.
Meanwhile, OCM also inducted 15 former athletes from various sports into their Hall of Fame, including 84-year-old Aminullah @ Amin Karim, who played hockey in the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games and the 83-year-old Lawrence van Huizen, who represented the country in hockey at the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games and twice in the Asian Games in 1958 and 1962.

Award recipients

OCM Women and Sport: Datuk Marina Chin

OCM Women and Sport Leadership: Linda Geh Guat Yeow

OCM Women and Sport Grassroots Development: Ee Hong

OCM Technical Achievement: Beatrice Alfred Lajawa

OCM Partnership: Abdul Hadi Ahmad and Kimberley Ann Gagnon

OCM Hall of Fame: Aminullah @ Amin Karim (hockey), Lawrence van Huizen (hockey), Datuk Ow Soon Kooi (hockey), M. Arulraj (hockey), Daphene Boudville (hockey), N. Thanabalan (football), Lim Heng Chek (swimming), Fong Seow Hor (swimming), Hector Durairatnam (cricket), Ahmad Mahmud (athletics and rugby), Datuk Kamaruddin Ghani (equestrian), Rosli Abdul Kadir (cycling), M. Vasugi (taekwondo), Dhanraj Rassiah (taekwondo) and Chai Fong Ying (wushu).

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Malaysian athletes just plain pampered

The late Datuk Mokhtar Dahari (right) was one of Malaysia's athletes of the past who would have done everything they could to win for the country.

TWO weeks ago, StarSport carried a foreign story about a Mexican boys’ team who dominated a basketball tournament playing barefooted.

The Triqui boys’ basketball team became a media sensation in Mexico after winning a youth tournament in Argentina – winning all seven games, with most of them playing without sneakers.
They were singled out by Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto as an inspiration for Mexico and an example for their struggling football team.

He was wrong.

The boys should be an inspiration to all Malaysian sportsmen and sportswomen.
Our athletes are a pampered lot. They have everything and yet deliver so little.

The Mexican boys displayed all the positive values one can only hope exist – even if it is just a tiny part – in our athletes.

They showed plenty of heart, hunger and humility – traits clearly missing from many of our athletes.
I believe that money – whether in the form of rewards or incentives – has blunted their passion and drive. Many athletes have been showered with gifts and cash the moment they achieve the slightest form of success.

It doesn’t matter if the victory was only at the regional level.
Many associations and companies have gone overboard when it comes to rewarding athletes. And many a time they have failed to see the damage they have caused and the monster they have created.
Who can forget the way the nation showered the badminton players with cash, land, cars and much more when they won the Thomas Cup in 1992.

Or how the states have lavished their footballers with gifts galore whenever they win the FA Cup, Malaysia Cup or the League title.
Yes, some of them do deserve what they get. For example, world No. 1 shuttler Lee Chong Wei and world No. 1 squash player Nicol David.

These two are prime examples of where hunger and heart can take you.
They also had the tenacity to overcome all the odds and the intelligence to change their game to suit their style.

They reinvented themselves so that they could reach the pinnacle of their sport.
How many of our current athletes can do that?
Many are just contented with the allowances and prize money they get. They are, in other words, just contented to be in their comfort zone.

These are athletes who have been given the very best in terms of training facilities, attire, food, travelling, accommodation, allowances, bonuses etc.
Their jerseys, boots/shoes and equipment are all sponsored.

And most times they travel in comfort for overseas stints and assignments and stay in comfortable hotels.

I bet the boys from Mexico would have loved to have half the kind of facilities our athletes enjoy.
Sometimes I wonder why it is that countries like Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam have improved by leaps and bounds in all sports.

In my humble opinion, it’s because they still have the hunger in them. They know that excelling in sport is one way for them to escape from poverty and to improve their families’ standard of living.
Thai badminton queen Ratchanok Intanon is one prime example.

And these athletes clearly take pride in representing their country as well.
Our athletes used to be like that. Back in those days, our athletes would run themselves to the ground, cover every blade of grass and spill blood (if necessary) to win for the country.

That was the time the likes of the late Datuk Mokhtar Dahari, Ishtiaq Mubarak and Eddy Choong, Datuk Sri Shanmuganathan, Tan Sri Dr M. Jegathesan and many others reigned supreme.
And they didn’t only rule in the South-East Asian region. No, these athletes took on the world and gave the best a run for their money.

Now, all we have are Nicol, Chong Wei and a handful of cyclists, bowlers and divers.
Another attribute I find really annoying among the current athletes is their arrogance. Many act like prima donnas after winning one or two tournaments.

They enjoy being in the limelight and hogging the headlines in gossip magazines and tabloids.
They tend to take their opponents for granted. To me, that smacks of disrespect.
Athletes of yesteryear knew the importance of humility. They respected every one. They never once underestimated their opponents.

The current breed of athletes only want to see their names in the headlines on back pages of newspapers (or front pages if they can) for the right reasons.
Part of the blame for the downturn in Malaysian sports should be shared by the leaders of the various associations – there is just too much politicking in the national sports associations (NSAs).
Many leaders have overstayed, and are overstaying, their welcome.

Some have been holding on to power for decades!
Their sport has been sliding down the rankings and they still insist they can do the job. These people probably have their heads in a hole.

What Malaysian sport needs are people with new and fresh ideas. The NSAs need men and women who can provide dynamic leadership.

We have a young and dynamic Youth and Sports Minister in Khairy Jamaluddin.
It’s time the NSAs have such a leader, too.

It’s time for the NSAs to come to their senses and bring in the young movers and shakers.

Will it happen?

Nah, I doubt it!