For some reason or another, the name Loo Kum Zee comes to mind whenever the topic of the Sea Games comes up.
I recall watching him on television, winning a gold medal during the 1995 Chiang Mai Sea Games. That was the first of five Sea Games gold medals he won in his illustrious career.
This was of course long before the days of satellite television that brought in tons of foreign sports, including the Olympics and various other sporting events live.
I have to admit that for quite a while, I lost interest in the Sea Games, even when we hosted it back in 2001.
How could the Sea Games compare to the Olympics or even the Asian Games?
However, I got my interest back during the 2005 Manila Sea Games, as I was assigned to cover it in my first-ever job as a reporter with a local sports daily.
At the time, I was only one month into the job and it felt like I was thrown into the deep end.
But what an experience it was as I witnessed the likes of Robani Hassan winning the gold medal in the 110m hurdles with fellow sprinter Muhd Faiz Mohammad winning the silver at the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex.
Or how Shahadan Jamaludin gave his all to win the 400m hurdles competition.
Then there were the likes of Rosalinda Samsu, Moh Siew Wei and Ngew Sin Mei who were victorious in the pole vault, 100m hurdles and triple jump events respectively.
There were disappointments of course, such as when a young Lee Hup Wei couldn't continue Malaysia's dominance in the high jump – something he made up for in the following years.
This was also the first time I watched Wushu and even learnt the intricacies of gymnastics, with Malaysia winning 10 gold medals in the latter then.
And now once again, my interest in the Sea Games is back and I have to thank my wife who is a volunteer at the games. She is not really a sports fan, but her enthusiasm has got me pumped up to follow what is happening.
The other day, she was celebrating much more than me when N. Thanabalan scored the winner for our Harimau Malaya against Singapore in a 2-1 comeback win at the Shah Alam stadium.
And I am supposed to be the "hardcore" football fan.
So, anyway I hope all Malaysians can support our athletes and not scoff at the so-called low standard of the games.
"You might ask, how important is secondary school compared with university? It's all in the building blocks system. Even people like (Datuk) Lee Chong Wei started off in the SEA Games and built up to Asian Games, then to the Commonwealth Games and the Olympics," Olympic Council of Malaysia secretary Datuk Sieh Kok Chi told me in an interview not too long back.
The Sea Games is the platform where future world-class athletes are born.
While the mother of all gold medals that is football, I am looking forward to the likes of Khairul Hafiz Jantan blazing the Bukit Jalil track.
At a time when the country seems fractured politically, its people like Khairul who can unite the people with his performances. There is nothing like sports to unite us all.
Majulah Sukan Untuk Negara!