Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Doctor With The Midas Touch

A LATE starter in bowling, Datuk Dr P. S. Nathan, has gone on to create a
number of firsts both as a player and official locally and
internationally. He has the distinction of having bowled the sports into
world recognition.
Son of a clerk, a consultant dermatologist by profession, Nathan, a
product of St Paul's and Victoria Institution who hails from Seremban. He
speaks to Mailsport's TONY MARIADASS.
MS: Datuk, you were stung by the bowling bug at the age of 35. How did
that happen?
PSN: Age is only a chronological number. What is important is the
biological age. I was very fit those days having played games all the
time during school and then during my doctorhood. I was pretty serious in
badminton and played very regularly. As to how I got into bowling, it was
my wife. She had been going bowling for some time with our American lady
neighbour in a morning tea league and she impishly suggested I try this
new game in town.
I did it to satisfy her and found that it was challenging but I had a
knack for it.
My very first game was 127 which I was told was not bad considering it
was a house ball. And the rest is history.
MS: What were your highlights as a player and then as an official?
PSN: As a player I was the first National Masters champion in 1974. It
was also the year I founded the Malaysian Tenpin Bowling Congress (MTBC).
When I took up bowling seriously in 1972, I found there was no national
body. As I wanted to compete, I got a few bowling die-hards and we formed
the MTBC.
As a player, my fulfilling moments were winning the national finals
three times in a row in 1975-77. (My wife won the ladies event the same
three years, thus creating a record of sorts) to represent Malaysia in
the AMF World Cup.
The singles gold at the SEAP Games in 75 (the first gold for Malaysia
in bowling in the SEA Games) and then the Asian Games team gold in 1978
(again the first gold for Malaysia in the Asian Games in bowling) were
memorable moments. The singles gold was a record that stood for more than
20 years.
I hung up my bowling shoes in 1981 after winning the national finals to
represent Malaysia in the first World Games. This was particularly
memorable as once again, my wife won the ladies finals with me.
As an official, I was the president of the Asian Bowling Federation
from 1984-1987. Then from 1987-2003 I was the president of the WTBA for
three terms of four years each. As the first Malaysian and the first
Asian to be the president of a world governing body of a sport it was
very challenging.
MS: How much has changed since your playing days and where is the game
heading these days?
PSN: A massive amount. In my playing games until 1981 we were only
allowed one bowling ball and they were all either rubber or plastic.
Since 1981, a urethane group of bowling balls have surfaced. Bowlers are
allowed any number of balls during competition. In golf, the number of
equipment is limited to 14 but in ours, there is no limit. The pins have
also changed. Lane maintenance has become very scientific leading to more
uniform playing condition. The net result is that score worldwide has
gone astronomical.
The number of perfect games used to be a rarity in my days. But these
days, every tournament sees at least one perfect game bowled a day.
Everyone would agree, by this I mean all those in the government body of
sports that the technical specifications should be tidied up.
Unfortunately, this is being resisted by the ball manufacturers. When I
became president first in 1987, that was my focus to try and bring back
credibility to the sport by tidying up the technical specification, to
create a more level playing field particularly for the smaller and newer
I managed to limit it to six balls and until powers that be bring down
this number to two or maximum three, the developing nations will always
be at a disadvantage in tenpin bowling.
MS: Do you think there should be more leaders who have been involved in
their respective sports and why?
PSN: Yes, indeed if they have the time and inclination. Why?
Principally to be guardians of the rules and regulations of their sport.
The present climate and culture in international sport federation is for
leaders to try and manipulate the rules to get, what I called unfair
advantage for their country or their region. Additionally, it will put
Malaysia on the world sports map.
MS: What's your advice for athletes to succeed in both sports and
PSN: If an academic has a talent in a certain sport, he would by nature
be inclined to get competitively involved. As to whether he would take it
to international level, is a function of his passion for the sport. To do
this of course, time management comes into play. There is no question
that one cannot excel in the library and in the field. In my case, I took
up competitive sport after graduating. This placed an even greater
emphasis on time management.
MS: You are also active in social work?
PSN: I have been the secretary of the KL Home Nursing Service
Association since 1974 when I was a Rotarian. This charity organisation
was founded by Rotary Club of KL and as a medical man, they asked me to
take over. My social work involves fund raising and I do this by bringing
in world renowned Indian classical musicians. Since 1991, I have raised
more than a RM1 million for this society.
MS: What is your hope for bowling in general?
PSN: My hope for bowling in Malaysia is we continue to go forward by
maintaining our position as a team to beat at Asian or world level. For
this, we must continue to have and implement our development programmes.
This requires funding and human resources. The human resource has to be
of world calibre as far as coaches are concerned.
We have a bunch of excellent councillors in MTBC and in general an
excellent group of bowlers in our elite programme. I do hope that the
council, the coaches and the bowlers work as a team to focus on winning
At the world level, I hope the new administration that has taken over
since my resignation will be apolitical and also non parochial. In the
last congress that I attended, politics was rampant and everyone was
scrambling like in musical chairs for name and fame. This does not bode
well for the future of international bowling.
MS: What message do you have for the present Malaysian athletes?
PSN: My message would be "go for it". Go for the red carpet that our
Minister of Sports Datuk Azlina Othman Said has laid out for the elite
athletes. All your needs will be taken care of including your education
and your future. This has the potential to take you to fame and fortune.
There are millions of PhDs but few millionaires and household names. In
sports, there be few millionaires, but those who have excelled are
legends and icons for life.
Profile: Datuk P. S. Nathan
Born: 3rd Nov 1933
Family: wife Datin S. Malathy and two children - son Ruben and daughter
Current Position: Consultant dermatologist, President MTBC.
Playing career:
1974 Malaysian National Masters champion
1975 SEA Games singles gold Medallist (Bangkok)
1977 K.L. SEA Games silver medallist in doubles; five-men team silver
1978 Bangkok Asian Games five-men team gold medallist
1974-1987 Captain of Malaysian National Tenpin Bowling Team
1975-1977 Malaysian AMF World Cup National Champion
1977 9th in AMF World Cup Championship in London
1981 World Games Malaysian National Champion
1981 9th in World Games, Santa Clara, USA
1974 Founder President of the Malaysian Tenpin Bowling Congress - now
(31 years).
1977-1988 Member of Presidium of the Asian Bowling Federation - 11 years
1978-1983 Vice President of Asian Bowling Federation - 5 years
1984-1988 President of Asian Bowling Federation - 4 years
Since 1978 Executive Committee Member of Presidium of World Tenpin
Bowling Association - 27 years
1987-1995; 1999-2003 President of World Tenpin Bowling Association - 12
years(1st Asian to become President of a World Sports Organization.)
Since 2003 Life President WTBA
1991 Awarded the Golden Pin by the World Governing Body of Bowling
Other sporting activities:
1979-1980 President of World Bowling Writers Association
Since 1975 Member of Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) - 30 years
1991 Member of the 1998 Commonwealth Games Bid Committee
1991 Chef-de-Mission to the Manila SEA Games
1993-1998 Director of SUKOM - 6 years
1996-2000 Vice President of OCM - 6 years
Other societies:
Since 1975 Honorary Secretary of KL Home Nursing Service Association -
30 years
1975-1987 Member of Rotary Club - 12 years

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