Last weekend, I had the honour of meeting one of Malaysia’s greatest track and field athlete at an event in my constituency – G.Shanti. For whom this name sounds familiar, you would remember her as Malaysian’s sprint queen during the 1990s going up against the likes of Lydia DeVega and Indian spring legend, PT Usha. She still holds the Malaysian national record for the 100m (11.5s) and 200m (23.4s). She was the last Malaysian women to win the 100m and 200m at the South East Asian games in 1997.
The 1990s were undoubtedly the golden years of Malaysian athletics. While we may have had bigger stars in past years – Rabuan Pit in the 1980s and M Jegathesan in the 1960s – the combination of talent in the 1990s has, in my opinion, never been replicated. Watson ‘the Flying Dayak’ Nyambek – who still holds the men’s 100m record at 10.3s –, Romzi Bakar in the 400m, Samson Vellabouy in the 800m, A.Munasamy in the 1500m, M. Ramachandran in the 5000m and 10000m, Nur Herman Majid in the 100m hurdles, Harbans Singh in the 20km walk, G Saravanan in the 50km walk, Loo Kum Kee in the high jump, Mohd Zakri Sadi in the long jump and triple jump, Wong Tee Kui in the hammer, Mohd Yazid Imran in the javelin, N. Manimagalay in the women’s 400m, Noorseela Khalid in the womens’ 400m hurdles, Yuan Yu Fang in the womens’ 5000m, 10000m and the 20km were all SEA game gold medallists in the 1990s. In the 1997 SEA Games, Malaysia took home a haul of 17 gold medals.