Tuesday, April 15, 2014

High-flying Shah

Published on Saturday 12th April
Monday, April 14, 2014 - Malay Mail
FOR many, Major General (rtd) Datuk Shahrudin Mohd Ali’s name may not ring a bell, but the air force man was a high-flying athlete in the early 1960s.
What he achieved in athletics is something many athletes can only dream of – he competed in two Olympics (Rome 1960 and Tokyo 1964) as a teenager, in the first Seap Games in Bangkok in 1959, winning the 100m and 200m, and in the 1962 Asian Games in Jakarta.
He was also flag-bearer for the Malaysian contingent at the 1964 Olympics. In the 1962 Asian Games, he was commissioned to return from duty to represent the nation at the 11th hour.
Now going on 73 but still looking fit, Shahrudin had a short athletics career because he was required by the nation to form the pioneer Malayan Air Force, comprising 26 officers, in 1960.
Shahrudin as a young pilot with the RMAF.

He retired in 1989 after 29 years of service as the deputy chief of the Royal Malaysian Air Force.
Shahrudin was active in rugby when he was with the air force, being instrumental in forming the RMAF Blackhawks and leading the team for 25 years.
“I believe that for sportsmen and women to excel, they must go through hardship and must know what sacrifice means,” said Shahrudin.
“I was born during World War II to a poor family in Beranang, Selangor.”
He received his primary school education at the Malay School in Beranang and secondary school education at High School Malacca.
“As a kampung boy, I had a strong build and was lucky to be drafted into the Boys Wing at the Royal Military College (RMC) in Port Dickson, which gave me a strong foundation for my future,” said Shahrudin, who completed his Cambridge School Certificate in 1958 and Higher School Certificate in 1959.
“I and three others were selected to attend an aptitude test in Singapore and I was the only one who passed and joined the RMAF.”
When he was inducted into the Olympic Council of Malaysia Hall of Fame in 2012, Shahrudin said he did not deserve the accolade as his athletics career was short.
“Sport then was not professional.
It was left to the individual, parents, teachers and well-wishers,” said the father of seven. “At RMC, I was introduced to tough training both as a cadet and athlete. And we competed in many sports,” said Shahrudin, who also played hockey and boxed.

“I was lucky to have good trainers in teachers like warrant officer Mr Stavely and physics teacher Mr Nichols, canteen operator Mr Lim, who took a liking to me and gave me extra food so I would be in a better shape, and of course my own will to excel.”
“Today, sport is a career and I cannot understand why after 50 years, we have not done as well as we should have. Athletes today are pampered – they get everything from education, equipment, accommodation, allowance, rewards, coaches, facilities, you name it, they have it.
“When I competed in Rome (1960), I went with a pair of spikes made by my college cobbler and designed by Mr Nichols. It was the same pair in which I clocked 10.6 seconds on grass. But just before I left, I was given a ‘real’ pair of spikes by Adidas,” said Shahrudin, whose 21.6s record in the 200m still stands in the Armed Forces athletics annals.
“We may be able to compete well in sports that are not physically challenging, like archery, tenpin bowling, badminton and diving.
“This is where the government has to start specialising in selected sports to excel. I strongly believe that our future lies in athletes from Sabah, Sarawak, Kelantan and Terengganu, who are better built.
“There has to be a focused approach to developing sports in the country instead of wasting money in areas that will not bring any benefit," said Shahrudin, who clocked more than 3,000 flying hours as an air force pilot.

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