ONLY a year after surviving a life-threatening accident, former national runner N. Shanmuga-nathan has fulfilled his pledge to return to the running track.
The 41-year-old, who has been the national record holder for the 3,000m steeplechase event for the past 18 years, was involved in a road accident in Penang while riding his motorcycle on Feb 3, 2015.
He sustained serious head injuries and was in a coma for five days.
After regaining consciousness, Shanmuganathan needed two weeks to get his memory back and he has been working on his recovery ever since.
Now, the self-employed Penangite has declared himself ready to don his running shoes again and help others to succeed in athletics.
“The doctors at the hospital had given up hope on me. They told me later that it was a miracle that I survived the head injuries,” said Shanmuganathan.
“Even two weeks after the accident, I could not recall my own name or recognise my family members.
“It was a frightening experience and I am thankful to get a second chance to live my life,” said the father of one.
“It feels good to start running again. I had goosebumps all over and almost cried the first time I got back on the running track more than a year after the accident.”
Shanmuganathan is best known for setting the 8:59.10 national record en route to finishing ninth in the 3,000m steeplechase event during the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur.
He shattered M. Ramakrishnan’s 9:03.00 previous national record set in 1985.
“It has been 18 years since I set record and nobody has beaten it yet.
“It was one of the proudest moments in my life to set the record in front of the Malaysian crowd. I had the record time and the date of the event tattooed on my right bicep,” he said.
Shanmuganathan has credited the accident for changing his entire outlook on life. He wants to cherish every day now and wishes to give back to the sport which gave him fame.
“I realise now that life is short. It is important for me to start helping others.
“I am formulating a plan to help guide youngsters involved in athletics to fulfil their potential.
“It is very easy nowadays for a young athlete to get distracted or disheartened along the way.
“I learnt through my experience that young athletes not only need a coach but also a mentor and a father figure to help them stay focused on their dream.
“Malaysia needs more former athletes like myself to come back and contribute towards growing athletics.
“We used to be an athletics powerhouse in South-East Asia, but sadly, our dominance is a thing of the past now.”
Shanmuganathan said he met with athletics and National Sports Council officials to convey his interest in guiding budding athletics stars.
He also wishes to meet Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin to discuss his plans.
“Khairy is someone I admire because he is a very hands-on minister. He is doing his best to lift Malaysian sports.”