THElife of some sports champions seems all too short.
They wheel across the landscape of our interest for brief,
glittering moments and go off to where we see them in an altered perspective.
In some instances, after a brilliant start they disappear
altogether, leaving us with wistful contemplation of the what-might-have-been.
Former national champion walker and Olympian Annatasia Karen Raj
Silvaraj flickered briefly, if winningly, in the sporting limelight before
going on to forge a new career off the track.
The brevity of her sports career was as if Annatasia instinctively
knew the wisdom of the line from a poem about the transience of sporting glory:
“And early though the laurel grows, it withers quicker than the rose.”
Well, Annatasia’s laurels in walking did come early for one who
came to the sport by chance, but something in her determination and willpower
prevented her from dwelling on them.
Anna, as she is affectionately called in athletic circles, quit
walking after the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur after only four years
in the limelight. She finished fifth in the Games.
She was just 21 when she became the first woman walker from
Malaysia to qualify for the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, where she finished a
creditable 24th out of 46 qualifiers, setting a national record of 45:47s in
the 10km race.
Race walking records are about the most brittle of marks in track
and field. Even then, Annatasia’s record of rewriting the national mark 13
times in four years is considered remarkably prolific.
Annatasia, who had won gold medals at the Chiangmai and Jakarta SEA
Games in 1995 and 1997 respectively, also competed in the 1994 World Cup for
The Sentul Pasar-born had a tough early life and had wanted to
change all that, hoping sports will blaze the way.
But she left disillusioned.
She recalled: “At the Changmai SEA Games I had to walk with
borrowed shoes from fellow walker Teoh Tay Wah. The shoe had a hole in front
and I got a cobbler to sew a leather strip to cover the hole.
“Things could have been better for the athletes then.”
The Convent Sentul student started her working career as a
part-time waitress at Concorde Hotel in Kuala Lumpur when only 17, in 1992.
It was former national walker and coach V Subramaniam who
discovered Annatasia when she was a runner and was training at the Lake
“I owe my walking career to coach Subramaniam,” said Anna who
“He believed in me when I myself did not believe in myself. I
remember the first walk race he entered me only after two weeks of training and
I came out last.
“I wanted to quit, but it was Subramaniam who kept me going.”
Anna said coaches and parents play an equally important roles in
an athlete’s development.
“My parents gave me full support and encouragement,” she said.
Annatasia said when she quit athletics, she returned to job as a
“It was then a journalist, Wani Muthiah, who told me that I should
pursue my studies and wrote a story if anybody wanted to help a former national
athlete continue her studies.
“I was offered a scholarship by Limkokwing Institute of Creative
Technology’s founder-president Tan Sri Lim Kok Wing.
“I did a diploma course in Advertising, Multimedia and
Broadcasting, majoring in Multimedia.
“I am forever indebted to Wani for encouraging me to continue my
Annatasia worked for a while with Limkokwing Institute but she
wanted better things.
“That was when I joined Kelly Services where I got the job because
the boss recognised me as a former national walker.
“But instead of resting on my laurels as a former national
athlete, I decided I needed to earn my stripes as a worker.”
That’s when Annatasia moved up the occupational ladder and
switched to other employers which included Symphony BPO Solutions Sdn Bhd
(previously known as Vsource Asia Bhd) as HR Manager; Convergys HR Management
AsiaPac as Resourcing Manager Aspac – China, Singapore & Malaysia; Standard
Chartered Bank & Scope International Malaysia Sdn Bhd as Country Head
Talent Acquisition, and Hong Leong Bank as Senior Human Resource Manager.
Still looking for more challenges, she decided to venture out of
Malaysia and when she landed a job with Lear Corporation of Shanghai, an
automotive company dealing with car electrical appliances and seats, she took
“If my employers saw the potential in me, it was my task to prove
that they were not making a mistake,” said Annatasia.
“I knew was I was going to a foreign land where I did not even
speak their language. But I was game for it and have been with them since early
Annatasia is the director of talent acquisition of Asia Pacific.
Her family — husband Joseph Anthony and children Azriel (9),
Alexia (11) and Asher (14) — are with her.
“The children are in an international school and my husband is
studying again (Mandarin), we live comfortably. We love it there.
“I’m glad I made the decision to go there. It’s a fantastic place
which is very modernised, safe and the people are friendly and helpful.
“It’s hard work but I’m enjoying every minute of it.”
Annatasia said sportsmen and women have to fend for themselves
after their sporting careers.
“They cannot expect to be spoonfed just because they were national
athletes and cannot live on past glory.
“Of course, the sports associations and government should assist
them in their career paths after their sporting lives, but the initiative
should be taken by sportsmen and women themselves,” said the Sports Women of
Kuala Lumpur for 1996 and Olympian of the Year 1997.
Indeed Anna should serve as an inspiration to sportsmen and women
looking for a career after sports.