THE indomitable spirit ingrained within former Olympians can do wonders outside the sporting arena as shown by the Malaysian Olympian Association (MOA).
After years of working fervently to get things organised after being de-registered in 2012, it looks like the MOA is back on track to champion its cause.
Banding together with Kelab PJ’s Tennis Section, the association successfully organised its first activity in years – a project aimed at contributing to the club’s Underprivileged Children Tennis Programme and the Lighthouse Children’s Welfare Home (Lighthouse).
The tennis programme with Lighthouse youths has been running since 2011 and the funds received will help 20 youths gain continued access to coaching from Ace Tennis Coaching Academy, including providing them with proper equipment and food on training days.
Impressively, eight youths from the programme, who only picked up the sport three years ago, are now actively participating in local tournaments. One of them recently won bronze in a Selangor Tennis Association monthly medal meet.
A number of Olympians visited the players during their morning tennis training session which was followed by a medical and dental examination session for all 70 children from Lighthouse. The check-ups were carried out by Datuk Dr S.S. Cheema, Dr K. Balathevan and Dr Radhakrishnan.
Lighthouse founder Steven Silvaraju and his wife Jacinta Steven provide shelter, food and education for 70 children.
They said the free medical examinations benefited the home financially.
“We have also been fortunate to receive education grants from Kelab PJ and well-wishers. These children are no different from other children and all of these will help us provide them with a better quality of life,” he said.
“I have to thank the MOA and Kelab PJ for adopting our home as well as for their tremendous contribution through their hard work.”
Seven former Olympians or Olys, including MOA president Karu Selvaratnam turned up to show their support.
The others were Tan Sri Dr M. Jegathesan (Athletics), Datuk R. Yogeswaran (Hockey), MOA deputy president Jeffrey Ong (Swimming), MOA vice-president Stephen George Van Huizen (Hockey), MOA treasurer Aanantha Sambu Mayavu (Hockey) as well as Wong Choon Hin (Hockey).
Olympic Council of Malaysia vice-president Datuk Mohd Nazifuddin Mohd Najib was also present at the event.
“It was the determination of the Olympians that kept us at it. The committee toiled day and night for so long to make sure this took off,” Karu said after presenting cheques for RM4,000 and RM5,000 to the Kelab PJ Tennis Section and Lighthouse respectively.
“Contributing to the home and the tennis programme gives us as much satisfaction as getting the association back on its feet. To see the children happy is a joy for us,” said the former sprinter who represented the country at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
“Today marks the start of the first phase of our partnership with Kelab PJ and Lighthouse after being awarded a grant of US$5,000 from the World Olympians Association (WOA).
“With some money leftover from the WOA grant, there will be a second phase which the MOA hopes to conduct sometime in June or July. It will include more activities such as cricket, hockey as well as track and field for the children.
“We hope sponsors can help us so that we may, in return, use that to support our development programmes and unprivileged children who are an important aspect of our society and we need to look after them.
“Right now, we are focusing on finishing a five-year blueprint which will guide the association in the coming years and beyond.”
Karu said that although their career in sports was over, Olympians were still valuable to society although awareness of that fact was lacking.
“We want to make Olympians role models to inspire the youth. Among our primary objectives as an association is to be role models, encourage development and provide guidance as well as ensure that Olympians who had ended their career were well-placed in life.
“This is where corporate bodies can come in by giving employment to Olympians and make them role models in their own company,” he said.
As of the 2016 Rio Olympics, there are 367 Olympians in the country.
His message to all Malaysian Olympians is “Come forward and support the movement. You must know how valuable you are as an Olympian.”
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