Skate boarding legend and Laureus ambassador Tony Hawk shows he's still got the moves to Malaysian youths in an event in KL on Monday as part of their community project in Malaysia. - Getty Images
KUALA LUMPUR: Former Olympians Edwin Moses (athletics), Mark Spitz (swimming) and Nadia Comaneci (gymnastics) proved that it’s hard to put a good sportsman down.
The trio, who dominated their sports in the 70s and early 80s, are here for the Laureus World Sports Awards set to take place on Wednesday at Istana Budaya.
As ambassadors of Laureus and the Special Olympics International, Moses, Spitz and Comaneci indulged in a short football juggling game with athletes at the National Sports Institute in Bukit Jalil ahead of the Special Olympics Unified Football World Cup in Kuala Lumpur this Nov 1-15.
“It was so much fun! It was such a great opportunity for us to meet the Special Olympic athletes ... I think I was the only lady on the court,” said Comaneci, who won rapturous applause for performing a cartwheel as part of her warm-up.
Comaneci, the first gymnast to earn a perfect score of 10 – a feat she achieved on the uneven bars at the 1976 Montreal Olympics – also played football as a youngster.
“I used to play soccer when I was young. My coach Bela Karolyi used soccer to help us improve our conditioning. In the 70s it was not common for girls to play soccer, but we did it ... even my seven-year-old son (Dylan) loves to play as well,” said the 52-year-old, who now runs a gym in Norman, Oklahoma.
Spitz, who gained worldwide recognition for being the first swimmer to bag a record seven gold medals at a single Olympics in Munich in 1972, was thrilled at the opportunity, although he might have been pushing himself too hard.
“It was great. I learnt that at 64 years old I could go forward and backwards pretty good but left and right was terrible! My hips were giving out. I thought my ankles were going to give out ... no, I had a good time and I hope they did too,” he said with a chuckle.
Meanwhile, Laureus plan to start 11 fully-funded projects in Malaysia. The details, however, are still being finalised.
“It’s wonderful to have the Laureus World Sports Awards in Kuala Lumpur, especially on our 15th anniversary. But it’s so much more than just a sports award and we are promising to leave a legacy in Malaysia with 11 projects ... which is phenomenal,” said Comaneci.
“I know some of your famous athletes, but not from gymnastics ... Nicol David and Padelela (Rinong). I think it’s important to know that you don’t have to be from a particular part of the world to be successful.”