It would be hard to find a professor of Computer Sciences who is as passionate and committed to sports.
“WHEN I was five years old, my mum took me to the hockey field. The stick was taller than I was! It was from then I fell in love with hockey and never left it...”
This was some 40 years ago, and true enough, Prof Dr Shamala Subramaniam has been relentlessly paying it forward. Not just in the field of hockey, but in the arena of all Malaysian sports, including researching, organising and executing related support systems.
For the ongoing SEA Games (#RisingTogether!), Prof Shamala is a member of the Technical Committee and is also on the Jury of Appeal for the hockey events.
She is currently professor at the Faculty of Computer Science and Information Technology at Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) and director of the UPM Sports Academy, and her team (which she frequently acknowledges in her regular Facebook postings) has taken on the role of coordinating the TM Chanters. These 1,000 UPM students are the official cheer group for the Malaysian SEA Games Contingent – and they sure are a fun bunch to be around.
The UPM Sports Academy has also provided an estimated 100 undergraduates for the ICT Division of the SEA Games.
But that’s just part of it. Of the 874 athletes representing Malaysia in the current Sea Games, 264 (or 30.2%) are local university students. And some have already struck gold!
“UPM provides the ideal platform to elevate our athletes’ and sportsmen’s potential by integrating research and scientific approaches to training,” says Prof Shamala, who very often credits the university’s vice-chancellor Prof Datin Paduka Dr Aini Ideris for her steadfast encouragement.
“Most importantly, too, UPM has always been among the pioneers in ensuring athletes of all tiers of sports are given the opportunity to continue their undergraduate and postgraduate studies.”
And the professor should know – she’s lived it.
“I represented the Malaysian Senior and Junior Women’s Hockey Team. I was vice-captain of the Malaysian Junior team.
“It was always my dream to represent the national team ... It took a lot of hard work as the Malaysian team had so many wonderful players. Lots of long hours of fitness and skill training,” she adds.
Prof Shamala was the youngest of five in a “hockey crazy family”. Her mother was hockey coach at her Port Dickson High School, where Shamala was taught the finer points of the game AND that education and sports were both critical in life.
“So while sports was an integral part of my growing up years, I also wanted to pursue a career in Computer Science,” she said.
“I seized the opportunity to do my degree at UPM, qualified for my master’s and went on to gain a PhD in Computer Networks and Distributed Computing.”
With her first-hand experience in sports and academia, Prof Shamala decided to move into the management of hockey. She is now:
> Senior deputy president of the Malaysian Hockey Confederation;
> Director, National Olympic Academy, Olympic Council of Malaysia; and
> Deputy president, Selangor Hockey Association.
Asked for her thoughts on the current state of sports in Malaysia, a very positive, gung-ho Prof Shamala replied: “Amazing. We have programmes from Sports to All, the nationwide Talent ID, the state development programmes, the focus on development and High Performance to the ultimate target of every athlete, the Podium programme.
“We have the absolute support of the Government and the synergy with the National Sports Associations is great!”
I couldn’t help but ask what she thought of our Youth and Sports Minister, Khairy Jamaluddin, to which she responded: “Dynamic, Brilliant, and Iconic!”
And what are her hopes for the future of Malaysian sports?
“That we must become a nation that embraces sports as we embrace education,” she states.
“We must want to aspire to be the very best in global terms, we must want to invest to make ourselves better, and always hold dearly to the fact that we must always make our nation proud!”
And it’s most often Prof Shamala who is there at the airport to proudly send off or welcome home our hockey squads from international tournaments, win or lose.
For outstanding sportsmanship, both on and off the field, Prof Shamala is pure gold.
Danial Rahman has education close to his heart and welcomes feedback at email@example.com. The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own.
Danial Rahman has education close to his heart. He tweets at @danial_ari and welcomes feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.