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Tuesday April 19, 2011

Reinstate Golden Mile Race

BRING back the Golden Mile Race. This is the call made by former veteran distance runner Papu Ignatius, who is advocating the reinstatement of the race, which he won thrice, as a novelty event at major athletic meets.

Papu, a former national long distance athlete from Perak, won the Golden Mile Race three years in a row from 1968 to 1970.

The 68-year-old said the event held nostalgic memories of his years as a long distance runner competing against the likes of household names R. Subramaniam, Wan Hamid Saad, Sithambaram and Dilbagh Singh Kler, to name a few.

“The new generation of long distance runners does not seem to measure up to the standards of runners of yesteryear.

Sensational star: Choosak storming to victory in the 800m event in the 1978 Penang Schools athletics meet. He was one of the athletes coached by Papu

“They do not have the aura to stir up emotions of fans in general and there is a dearth of such top class runners to create the atmosphere,” said Papu.

He said the Mile Race could act as a novelty event at major athletic meets such as the National Schools Athletic Meet (MSSM) or the national open championships.

His first victory was in Alor Setar, after the opening ceremony of the national athletic championships. At that time it was named the Royal Mile Race because the Kedah Sultan sponsored the prizes.

The event was renamed the Golden Mile Race at the national athletic meets in Penang in 1969 and in Perak in 1970.

It has not been held ever since.

Papu said the mile race was slightly longer than the 1,500m event but it could be counted as a non-championship event, and provide colour to the main occasion and kindle interest in long distance running among the new generation.

“I feel someone like former Malaysian Amateur Athletic Union (MAAU) coach Edwin Abraham or former Malaysian Schools Sports Council athletics organising secretary S. Muthialu, who were both responsible for the introduction of the race, can undertake the task to bring it back as a novelty event for posterity’s sake.

“It was in fact Edwin’s brainchild, and his intention was to keep this event in perpetuity as he considered the Mile Race as the blue riband of long distance running,” he added.

Papu came to the fore in athletics as a 16-year-old student of St George’s Institution, Taiping, in 1959 by winning the six-mile race in the Perak AAA championships, and continued to compete until 1970.

During this span, he participated in the 800m, 1,500m, 5,000m and 10,000m races, and his record of 15:10.2s for the 5,000m set in 1968 still stands as the Perak state record.

He was Perak champion from 1968 to 1970, and represented Malaysia in the 5,000m at the South-East Asian Games in Rangoon in 1969.

Papu took up coaching after he retired as an athlete in 1970.

His coaching assignments included conditioning of national athletes in Perth, Australia, in preparation for the Asian Track and Field (ATF) championships in 1983, and again in Kiel, Germany, in 1985.

He coached athletes for the biennial South-East Asian Games five times in a row from 1983, and coached the ATF teams in l983, 1985, 1989 and 1993.

He also held various portfolios including Penang AAA Coaching committee chairman, Penang AAA vice-president, founder-secretary of the Penang Veterans Athletic association and MAAU coaching committee examinations director.

As the former Penang AAA coaching committee chairman, he is proud to have set up various coaching centres in the state. This resulted in a number of national athletes produced under the scheme.

Among them was Choosak Usaha, a 14-year-old student from St Xaviers Institution, who ran the 800m in under two minutes and later represented Malaysia in the ASEAN schools meet.

Papu has gone into business.

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