Saturday, October 1, 2016

Walker to hawker

By Tony Mariadass
Pictures by: Mohd Firdaus Abdul Latif

If you were a resident of the Jalan Duta-Segambut areas in Kuala Lumpur from mid-1970s through to the early 1990s, and if you happened to be up and about rather early, chances are you would have encountered a lone determined figure, wreaked in perspiration,walking briskly by the side of the road heading towards Jalan Duta.
The early morning ritual of national walker V. Subramaniam would have begun at around 4.30am from his home in Batu Caves to Jalan Duta where the Examination Syndicate was located in the days when the area was a secluded forested stretch where even a waterfall existed punctuated a few government buildings.
The monotonous regularity of ritual – absent only when it rained torrents which was seldom – the obvious determination of its performer, and the harvest of medals it brought him, established Subramaniam as the national athlete with a peerless work ethic.
Which is why these days you would be surprised to see the man taking your order for Western food and serving you at a food court in Taman Mewah in Ampang.

Subra preparing before he opens his stall
Sadly,  the 67-year-old for international walker, has fallen into bad times after he lost his job as national walks coach of eleven years with the National Sports Council last August.
The Malaysian Athletics Federation (MAF) took a bold move to remove old and experienced coaches in their revamp of the coaching set up in preparation for the 2017 Kuala Lumpur Sea Games.
Subramaniam tried to get a job as a coach with States AAs like Federal Territory and Terengganu, but in vain.
Although KLFTAA promised to use him for walking clinics, it is still in the planning stages.
“I had to make ends meet because there was little I could do with my RM320 pension I get from my eleven years’ service with Telekoms although I worked there for 30 years as they were privatised after that,” said Subra, as he was more popularly known, when met at his stall at the food court.

Subra at his stall at the food court in Taman Mewah, Ampang
“Although my children are all grown up and do support me a little, but I have eight grandchildren and want to be independent to be able to buy a few things for them and also for my daily expenditure,” added Subra whose wife Krishnaveny (64) who had passed away last November.
Sadly, life has been a struggle for Subra all his life.
He had won his first walking race in 1969 in a 10km race and went on to finish second in two others.
But working with a private company, he was not giving time-off for training or competition and had to put his ambition to be a national athlete on hold.
It was only ten years later at the ripe age of 26, when he found employment with Telekoms Malaysia in 1975, with whom he retired after 30 years that his athletics career finally took off.
With support from his employers, Subra saw his 14 years walking career take off with wins in almost all walking tournaments like the Malay Mail Big Walk, State meets and a walking circuit organised by a private company, Wings, before competing in his first international competition – in the 1977 Sea Games in Kuala Lumpur where he won the 10km gold medal and 20km silver medal.
He went to win a total six gold medals and five silvers in five Sea Games, qualified for the 1980 Moscow Olympics Games, but had to skip it because of the boycott by Malaysia, in the 1978 Bangkok Asian Games won the silver medal and 1982 Games finishing fourth and won two bronze medals from the Asian Track and Field in 1979 and 1981. He was named Selangor Sportsman for two consecutive years – 1978 and 1979 – and was also named the National Sportsman of the Year in 1978.

Happier times when Subra (second from left) was named Sportsman of The Year in 1978 with Sportswoman of The Year Slyvia Ng and then - Malaysian Amateur Athletics Union president the late Tan Sri Ghazali Shafie (left), and then Badminton Association of Malaysia president, the late Tan Sri Khir Johari.
Datuk Seri Najib (right), who was then Culture, Youth and Sports Minister, and other supporters cheer Subramaniam during the 20km walk at the 1989 KL SEA Games. Subramaniam went to win the race.
But every step of his walk he had to make sacrifices and anyone else in his shoes would have long ago given up.
But not the father of three boys - late Saravanan, Rajinikanth (41) and Sundhar (38) and two girls Uma Sunthary (41) and Shanti (39).
Even the death of his oldest 21-year-old son Saravanan in 1992 after a motorcycle accident, did not see Subra hang up his walking shoes.
Subra said that it was former walker B.Thirukumar, who told him about the stall available in the Ampang area and knew a lady who cooked western food who was looking for an opportunity to do business.
“I managed to find this stall and got the lady (Siti Zubaidi) who had worked with a Chinese stall owner for nearly ten years assisting in preparing western food to team up with me,” said Subra who has been operating the stall since last October.

He initially was operating the stall from morning to night and paid a rent of RM800 a month and business was good for starters.
“But off late, it has been bad and since last month I decided to operate only in the evenings from 4pm to 10pm and pay a reduced rent of RM540.”
Subra had to come up with a start-up capital of RM7,000 and spends anything between RM50 to RM200 a day to buy meat and grocery for his business.
“These days I make about RM1,200 a month after deducting expenses and share it 50-50 with Siti.

“It is not much, but I rather being doing something instead of just sitting at home,” said Subra who still continues to walk daily for at least an hour.
Subra who was a familiar figure at the Lake Gardens training walkers, has not been training anyone since January.
“I am looking forward to getting back to coaching and will be going to the National championships this weekend at the University Malaya to approach a few States including Selangor. Hopefully, I will land a job soon as I am yearning to get back to coaching especially in developing a few walkers to become top notch athletes.”
Indeed a sad state of affairs for such a decorated athlete who has brought so many honours to the country including winning the Sportsman Award of the Year besides having trained so many national walkers to glory.
Among the walkers whom he had nurtured include Annastasia Karen Raj, Mohd Shahrulhaizy Abdul Rahman, Narinder Singh, Loo Choon Sieng, and 2015 Sea Games bronze medallist Khairul Harith Harun to name a few.
Apparently, the fighter in Subra will not yield in the face of life’s vicissitudes.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Pushing on from Rio

The Rio Olympics ended more than a month ago, but celebrations continue.
Malaysia performed worthily, but their celebrants must not go giddy over it.
The Southeast Asian (SEA) Games is the first step forward, but it is the lowest barometer of excellence.
At the 35th Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) General Assembly held on Sept 25 at Da Nang, Vietnam during the 5th Asian Beach Games, the Rio Olympics performance analysis of OCA member countries was done by the OCA information and statistics committee headed by Zagdsuren Demchigjav (the president of the Mongolian Olympic Committee).
It was well researched and gave a realistic picture of sporting standards in Asia.
The report structured around the following areas: 1. Medal standings and general information; 2. Medal comparisons; 3. Sport by sport analysis and it reviews and key achievements; 4. Region by region analysis and its best sports events; 5. other key milestones and facts.
The committee used historical data sets to compare its improvement and other noticeable changes on the last 10 Olympics by its regions, gender and sports events.
The key findings included:
·        21 Asian nations won at least one medal at the Rio Games and 15 of them won gold medal.
·        Although Asian nations won one more gold medals than four years ago in London, it was still short of Beijing and Athens. Total of 68 gold medals accumulated 22.15% of available gold medal at Rio.
·        Asia captured 21.36% of total medals at Rio, around 2% better than London 2012.It lacks 5 medals from record breaking Beijing 2008.
·        In terms of medal quality, Asia won the highest number of bronze medals in their history at Rio with 86. 54 silver medals saw Asia at joint second highest results at the Olympics. Gold medal accounts for 22.15% of total medals won by Asian nations.
·        In archery, badminton, table tennis and weightlifting, Asian athletes won more medals than other continents.
·        Asia did not win any medals from 8 disciplines including triathlon, modern pentathlon and football.
·        Asia is leading continent in 10 disciplines, which won more than 30% medals or at least more than one gold medal.
·        Asian women has the best performance of the history, collecting 98 medals at Rio.
·        Total of 16 Olympic records and six world records were broken by Asian athlete in Rio.
Asian domination was manifested in sports like archery where six gold medals were won where Korean won five and Taiwan one, accounting for 50% of entire available medals.
In athletics, Asian won 13 medals including four gold but are still placed behind America, Europe and Africa and accounting to 4% of medals won in this sport.
In aquatics, Asian captured 30 medals including 12 gold to be ranked behind America and Europe. It accounts for 21 percent of medals available. Asia was most successful in diving and synchronised swimming. In diving China dominated winning seven gold medals from an available of eight. Singapore won their first ever gold medal in swimming.
In badminton, Asia is totally dominating since the sport was introduced at the Los Angeles. Asian athletes won 86% of medals available so far and captured 73% of total medals in Rio.
Three different countries – China, Indonesia and Japan – captured four of the five gold medal. In women’s singles, India won its first ever silver medal in any women’s category, while Malaysia secured three medals – but all silver.
In boxing, Asia secured 33 percent of available medals and ranked only behind Europe. In terms of gold medals, America captured one more gold medal than both Asia and Europe. Uzbekistan was the best team after winning three gold out of seven available.
In judo although Asia is the leading country in Olympics history, this year Europe won an impressive eight gold medals and total of 25 medals. Asia won 23 medals with 3 gold medals and accounts for 42% of total medals.
Other Asian dominating sports included table tennis, taekwondo and weightlifting.
In terms of region, East Asian countries dominated and captured 69% of total medals with an impressive 50 gold medals. Central Asia won 8 gold medals and a total of 31 medals and South East Asian countries secured 5 gold and a total of 18 medals. West Asia won five gold and a total of 13 medals while South Asia won only one silver medal.
Among the Asian nations who won their first ever gold medal at the Olympic Games include Vietnam, Singapore, Bahrain, Jordan and Tajikistan.
Malaysia won four silver medals (three badminton and one in diving) and a bronze from cycling for their best ever performance in the Games.
It is now time to concentrate on sports where Asians have a realistic chance to win medals and above all to double if not triple our efforts on development of these sports and expose our athletes to high level competition and training with countries who have already made a mark in them.
It’s time for long term planning and stop basking in reflected glory.
It is going to be a tall order for Malaysia to match our collection or better at the next Olympics in Japan in 2020 and unless, we start working today, all our overdone rejoicing would come to nought.

TONY is a sports
Journalist close to
four decades of experience
and is passionate about
local sports.
He can be reached at

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Level Field columns

Level Field
When voluntarism is dying art in sports, people like Datuk Dr Harjit Singh and DSP Balwant Singh, gave it a fresh breath in keeping it alive with their works, dedication and passion for sports.
Both based in Johor, through their Johor Sikh Sports Club (JSSC) and the Royal Malaysia Police Sikh Sports Association, Johor branch (RMPSSA) respectively, jointly organised ‘The Johor Sikh Sports Fellowship Night dinner 2016’ last Friday at the Millisime hotel at Iskandar Puteri.
The dinner was held to honour Johor born national Olympic high jumper Nauraj Singh Randhawa for doing the nation proud.

Bu what was even more meaningful of the dinner was that it was self-funded – dinner tables bought by supporters – a raffles draw was held to collect funds for the development of sports through the JSSC of which Harjit is the president – which he has been serving for almost 20 years with a break in between for a few years.

Dr Harjit’s name is synonymous in sports in Johor, especially cricket where he is the president of the Johor Cricket Sports Council.
His passion for sports is always overflowing, and his love for cricket is something he acquired from his father Meva Singh, who was an ex-Selangor and renowned Kilat Club cricketer.

A former student of English College Johor Baru (now known as Maktab Sultan Abu Bakar), the good doctor learnt to score at the age of five, earned his personal bat at the age of six and came under the watchful eye of the famous late Mike Shepherdson at the Kilat nets.

Until today, Dr Harjit, whose trademark is his humility, is a firm believer of grassroots development and schools being the foundation of sports.
“Today the lack of sporting facilities and the neglect of schools sports is the bane for national sports development,” said Harjt boldly in his address at the dinner.
“People like Nauraj surfaced through the dedication of his parents and some private support. Imagine if he was discovered much earlier and nurtured, he would be miles ahead in his performance.
“It is sad that support and recognition only comes when one achieves something, when these athletes should have been guided the moment their talent is identified.”
The fact that Harjit and Balwant decided to join forces, not only to honour Nauraj, but to raise funds for further development in the sports of football, hockey and cricket in the state of Johor, speaks volumes of their heart for sports.
That people who rallied around to support this cause is indeed applaudable.
About 230 guests graced dinner occasion which was filled with entertainment of music and songs.

While Nauraj was presented with a memento by Balwant, the vice president of the RMPSSA, he also received a personal donation of RM 1,000 from Harjit.

But the surprise of the evening was when a supporter of Nauraj who attended the dinner, Joanne Joseph with her husband Shashi Raman, made a personal contribution to Nauraj for his training expenses.

“My late father was a teacher in the English College, and he would have been elated that a student of his college (Nauraj) had done the nation proud by qualifying for the Olympics. In memory of him, I want to make this personal contribution to Nauraj to assist him in a small way to further his aspirations to bring more honours to the nation,” said Joanne when making the cash presentation to Nauraj at the dinner where his parents Amarjit Singh and Manjit Kaur were present.

It may be a small contribution, but it was the big heart of Joanne and Shashi that mattered and went to show that Malaysia has many sports loving fans, who in their small way will stand up to assist.

From the dinner, Harjit and Balwant with their committee, raised RM15,000 to be used for development, which is another effort which needs to be lauded, as here is a sports body who does not depend on hand outs or sponsorships, but raised funds through their own effort and support of a sports loving community.

Harjit is also the man responsible for Amarjit to be in Rio to watch his son jump at the MaracanĂ£ Stadium.

It was Malay Malay’s Emeritus Editor, Frankie D’Cruz, when he heard that Amarjit, who largely responsible for the rise of Nauraj, hoping to see his son jump in Rio, that he threw the idea to Harjit to try and raise some funds.

In that meeting in Johor in June, where this conversation took place, Harjit sprang into action immediately and with a few phones calls to his friend had raised RM5,000 in less than half an hour.

The idea was then taken up by the Johor Sikhs Golf Association, whose president Datuk Manjit Majid Abdullah, organised a golf tournament and raised RM10,000. This amount was matched by Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah of Pahang, while Harjit raised another RM3,500 for a total of RM8,500.

Without doubt Harjit, the former deputy president of the Malaysian Cricket Association (MCA) from 1990 to 2003 and chairman of the development, has been very passionate of sports and has his wife, Datin Kaldip, stands behind him strongly in support of his charitable works and passion for sports. She is always seen with Harjit running all the errands and is the organiser from behind the scene.
Both Harjit and Kaldip are down-to-earth, jovial and delight to have for company anytime of the day.
Harjit is so passionate about cricket that he has even brought the game to even schools in Felda schemes and ‘kampungs’ in Johor.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Ex-hockey star recalls close shave in Nice attack

By Tony Mariadass

Former women’s national hockey team captain, K. Maheswari and her two children were counting their lucky stars as they escaped unscathed at the recent tragedy where a truck ploughed into a crowd watching the Bastile Day fireworks display on the Promenade des Anglias in Nice, France.
Maheswari and her two children Sheela 28 and Gautam, 24, were holidaying France and it was the last day of their four-day stop in Nice when they were encountered the mayhem following the harrowing incident occurred.

“We had gone to the Promenade to watch the fireworks and were at the beach which is a walk down the staircase from the Promenade proper,” recalled Maheswari, the Group Chief Regulatory Officer with K & N Kenanga Holding Berhad.
“We had some food and drinks and were watching the fireworks in the crowded beach which lasted 15 minutes and ended about 10pm. We then walked up the stairs to head to the Promenade where there were a sea of people. We found our way to the other side of the Promenade which was just about five minutes’ walk and suddenly everyone started running helter-skelter and screaming.
“We did not know what was happening but imagined the worst and started to run too. I had to pull my son who was getting lost in the confusion and grabbed the hands of both my children as I did not want to lose them in the mayhem.
“We followed some people who were running into an alley and someone knocked on the kitchen doors of a restaurant begging to let us in. Someone opened the door and let us in. About 15 of rushed into the kitchen and hide wherever we could in the small and narrow area.’
Maheswari said they were afraid and not knowing what was happening outside made it even more frightening.
“We just prayed for our safety and getting out of the place. We were holed up in the kitchen for a good 45 minutes.
“The one of the staff said people were walking back from wherever they had sought shelter and asked us if we wanted to leave.
“At first we were reluctant but as we looked out and some many people walking away, all of us decided to do the same.
“We walked briskly back to our hotel which was just ten minutes away still not knowing what was happening.”
Maheswari said when they were back at the hotel, they switched on the television and there was no news of the mayhem at the Promenade.
“We then started to surf the internet and it was then that dawned upon us what had happened.
“We were shocked but relieved that we were safe.
“Images were horrifying and we just thanked our lucky stars that nothing happened to us. We were so close to the incident and anything could have happened to us.”
Maheswari said she immediately decided to cut short the family’s annual holiday and return home.
“We still had another four days and were supposed to continue tour and we supposed to head to Cannes and Montpellier but we returned the very next day. We just wanted to get out of there and return home.”
It was the second time Maheswari had to cut short their holiday trip.
Earlier, Maheswari and her children were in France for the Euro 2016 and had to cut short her trip as her mother-in-law had passed away in Klang.
“We watched the quarterfinals match in Saint-Denis between France and Iceland and were to watch the Portugal versus Wales in Lyons, but had to skip the game and returned home for the funeral.”
Maheswari said it was the first time that the family had planned to go to several places in France and somehow it did not work out well.
“I have been to Paris and always wanted to see the rest of France. But after what had happened – having to cut short my trip twice – I have vowed never to go back to France because it is full of bad memories.
“I am just glad that we are back home safe and sound and feel blessed that we are alive.”

Friday, July 22, 2016

Let's just move on

Level Field
 (H) Let’s just move on
 So much has been said about the current predicament of the national football team and the FA of Malaysia.
Indeed, football in the country is at its lowest ebb. And many questions remain unanswered as FAM struggle to stay on track.
Several issues have surfaced in the most surprising manner and one cannot help but wonder what the real agenda is behind all these controversies.
Yes, if something is not right with Malaysian football, it must be addressed and corrected. But there is a proper channel to deal with such things.
What is the point of going on a witch hunt or looking for scapegoats?
If there are signs of wrongdoing, change the present administration or do something to better the state of football in the country. But let it be done through the right processes.
Washing dirty linen in public, especially when it is unverified, is of no help to anyone or the game.
In this context, there is still no clarity about the retirement of national players Safiq Rahim (captain), Aidil Zafuan Radzak, S. Kunalan and Amirulhadi Zainal.
True, it is the prerogative of these players to retire but the manner in which their retirement was announced does not portray them as true professionals.
These are questions that football fans want answers to:
·        Why didn't the players send their official resignation letters to FAM through their respective clubs, and why did they choose to make their decisions known through social media?
·        Why did they decide to retire after the Oceania tour and not decline the national call-up for the tour and make their retirement plan known then?
·        Why did they waste public funds by going on the tour and then announce their retirement?
·        Since when did players become such experts in training methods that they dared to question national coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee's credibility?
·        Were the players sincere about serving the nation or did they just take it for a ride?
As mentioned earlier, it is the players’ right to retire but the national coach should not even think of taking them back if they changed their minds.
Former international Santokh Singh was spot on when he asked: “Why all the big fuss about the retirement of the four players?”
Is Malaysia so deprived of talent that it cannot go forward without the infamous four?
Maybe the departure of the four players is actually a blessing in disguise for FAM. Now, it can finally decide on long-term plans and start working with a young team.
On too many occasions, the national body has come up with short-gap measures or has been in denial mode, still believing that the national team can perform a miracle when they are scrapping the barrel and Malaysian football is in the pits.
I can understand Santokh’s sentiment that Malaysian football should just forget about the four players and move on because he comes from an era (1970s and 1980s) when Malaysia had an abundance of talent.
Malaysia had a national team and a ‘B’ team in place and any time a player decided to retire or was forced out because of injuries, there were ‘ready-made’ replacements.
In fact, the competition for a place on the national team was so intense that the coaches had a hard time naming their final squad. In fact, very little separated the players in training, normally about 30 of them at any one time.
At state level, it was not uncommon to see national players sitting on the bench as there were so many quality players available and battling for a place in the first XI.
But those days are long gone.
Seated second from left: Ex-internationals Datuk Soh Chin and N. Thanabalan and Datuk Santokh Singh (behind Thanabalan)
Another household name, Datuk Soh Chin Aun, said: “Players must have the desire to play for the nation. The moment they say they want to quit, it is pointless to try and change their mind or hope that they will return.
“It is an honour to don national colours and players would want to be on the team for as long as they can contribute. The moment they say they want to quit for whatever reason, we just have to forget about them.”
As far as FAM are concerned, the sooner they make way for new faces, the better for Malaysian football.
But it must said that managing FAM is not as easy as managing a club or state FA. The national body has 16 affiliates, which actually are the governors of the game because all their decisions are collective and consensual.
They have to take part of the blame for the ills of Malaysian football.
Take their decision to have foreign players in the league and increase the number of them from year to year. Like it or not, there is a dearth of quality players in the national team because the foreigners occupy key positions in the state teams, like defenders, midfielders and strikers.
So come Sept 15, when FAM hold their congress meeting, everyone who is passionate about Malaysian football should speak up without fear or favour and state the changes they are clamouring for. They should make themselves heard and strive to make a difference.
On their part, FAM members should be prepared to listen and be corrected if they are wrong.
Let’s move forward for the sake of Malaysian football, which is still alive and well among the fans!

TONY is a sports
journalist with more than
three decades of experience
and is passionate about
local sports.
He can be reached at
Twitter: @tmariadass​

Friday, July 15, 2016

Strong plea for joint Games fails

PASSION, compassion, commitment, ability, reducing costs, leaving a legacy, giving Para athletes a platform to be equals and all other reasoning failed to convince the SEA Games Federation (SEAGF) Council to agree to Malaysian Sea Games Organising Committee’s (MASOC) proposal to organise the 29th Sea Games and the 9th Asean Para Games jointly next year.
Even Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin’s passionate and sincere plea with all his well-presented reasoning in a final attempt yesterday morning at the SEAGF Council meeting, failed to reverse an earlier decision on Wednesday afternoon by the SEAGF executive committee meeting decision of a 10-1 vote against the joint hosting of the Games.
To Khairy’s credit, he was very passionate in his presentation and his plea drew admiration from the delegates but when it came to voting again for a final decision, the SEAGF Council voted 9-2 to see the SEA Games hosted separately.
It was indeed a noble idea to have both Games hosted simultaneously for the first time ever, but the SEAGF members were united in their stand that they were not prepared to share their identity with the Para Games.
Afterall, the SEAGF is 58 years old and after 28 Games, they were not prepared to share their platform with Asean Para Games who will be hosting their ninth edition.
The Para Games has been traditionally held after the SEA Games and besides both Games are governed by separate bodies.

There was no formal discussions held between Asean Para Sports Federation (APSF) with SEAGF and even a consensus within the APSF was not unanimous to host a joint Games, as eight agreed and three did not according to the MASOC presentation.

The Malaysian Paralympic Council (MPC) also did not engage the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) and it was no surprise that the SEAGF executive committee were caught off guard when MASOC made a presentation for a joint Games.

Some SEAGF members even complained that their respective Paralympic Councils in their country too had too not made any mention of their interest of a joint Games.

But in the end, it boiled down to SEAGF Exco questioning whether the interest of the athletes of both Games was sought.

The members expressed their apprehension that while the idea of joint Games was noble, the chances were that the Para Games athletes will be overshadowed by athletes of the SEA Games and would that augur well for the promotion of the latter.

Some members even had said that they gave their vote for Malaysia to host the Sea Games and if they had known then that Malaysia wanted to host the Paralympics together, they would not have given the nod.

Many said that it was not just about Malaysia but also the other nations who had several constraints over a joint Games.

In a nutshell, the SEAGF were concerned on impact of the joint Games and they stood together as a family to uphold their identity.

OCM president, Tunku Tan Sri Imran Tuanku Ja'afar’ who chaired the SEAGF Council said Khairy did very well to present the case but the SEAGF family as much as they were impressed and noted his passion, they had to make a decision with the SEA Games at heart.

Kudos for Khairy for making every effort to have the joint Games and standing in front of the SEAGF Council to make the plea, but a decision has been made and it is time to move on.

There were even news surfacing that Malaysia will go ahead to host the Games jointly with or without the blessing of the SEAGF, but it is heartening that common sense prevailed.

Probably the SEAGF decision is a blessing in disguise as Malaysia now host both the Games separately and make not one Game a huge success but both.

With just a year before Malaysia host sixth Games (after 1965, 1971, 1977, 1989 and 2001), after 16 years, it is hoped that all quarters now join hands and work hard to make a memorable affair for both Games.

TONY is a sports
journalist with more than
three decades of experience
and is passionate about
local sports.
He can be reached at
Twitter: @tmariadass​