KUALA LUMPUR: Rally champions KaramjitSingh and Allen Oh have finally won a richlydeserved recognition – for themselves and also the sport in the country.
The rally veterans were named the winnersof the 2002 Sportsman of the Year Award at aceremony at the Sheraton Subang here lastnight. They received the award, which carries a cash prize of RM10,000, from the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
Bowler Shalin Zulkifli was named the winnerof the women's award for the fifth time. Shewas also the Sportswoman of the Year for 1994, 1996, 1997 and 2001.
Driver Karamjit and navigator Allen are onlythe second team to be named winners of theindividual category in the 37-year history of the national awards.
The first winners were badminton's CheahSoon Kit and Yap Kim Hock. They won the 1996award following changes in the rules to allowteams to vie for the main category of thenational awards.
Karamjit and Allen were picked in favour ofwushu exponent Ho Ro Bin, who also boast ofsuccesses on the world stage last year.
Ro Bin won the nanquan gold medal at theWorld Championships in Shanghai. He alsobagged gold medals in the Busan Asian Gamesand also in the Beijing Invitational Cham-pionships.
But the ability of the rally duo to sustain their winning ways over nine races tipped the scale in their favour. Karamjit and Allen retained their Asia Pacific Championships and went on to be crowned champions of the production car class of the World Championships.
The 40-year-old Karamjit said that it was ahonour to gain recognition for their long andhard climb to the top and the award was a bigboost for motor rally sport in Malaysia.
“I have been in this business for 18 years and it has all paid off with this award. I cannot describe the feeling at the moment but you can bet that it will spur me on to do better and win more title for the country,” said Karamjit.
“I would like to thank my family and my wifefor their undying support that they had given all these years. I also take this opportunity to thank all the fans, the man-in-the-street who have come up to meet me, my sponsors Proton-Eon and team manager Datuk Abdul Razak Dawood for their support and encouragement.”
The 53-year-old Allen said that recognitionfor the sport will benefit it greatly and he was happy that all their efforts had paid dividends.
“It is a tremendous boost for us and also I feel very happy that we have been recognised for putting Malaysia on the world map in the sport.
I would also like to thank those who have given us their support,” said Allen.
There were 20 nominations for the sportsman award and six were shortlisted for the final count. Besides Karamjit-Allen and Ro Bin, the other who made it to the final count were Aimrul Hamizan Ibrahim (weightlifting), Wong Choong Hann (badminton), R.Puvanesweran (karate)and Lim Keng Liat (swimming).
Shalin was the runaway winner for the women's award. She was very consistent on the international stage last year,winning six titles, including a gold medal in the Asian Games.
Shalin said that she would still treasure the award even though she has won it four times before.
“Every award is special to me. It will spur me on to work hard all the time. My target this year is the World Championships in September and I will try my best to be awinner,” said the 24--year-old Shalin.
There were 11 nominations for the women's award and only three made the final round of voting. The others were lawn bowls'Siti Zalina and karate's S.Premila.
The selection panel did not pick winners for the men's team award.
Karamjit and Allen were also nominated for this category but they were not chosen again because they had been named winners of thehigher category.
The women's team award went to squash's Nicol David, Sharon Wee, Tricia Chuah and Lim Yoke Wah, who were placed seventh in the World Championships last year. They gotthe nod over the badminton pair of Lim Pek Siah-Ang Li Peng, who were gold medallists at the Manchester Commonwealth Games.
Former Malaysian Amateur Athletic Union (MAAU)president Tan Sri Mohamed Ghazali Shafie was named “Tokoh Sukan ” while theleadership award went to golf’sRamlan Harun.
ROLL OF HONOUR
SPORTSMAN: Karamjit Singh and Allen Oh (Motorsports).
SPORTSWOMAN: Shalin Zulkifli (Bowling)
MEN'S TEAM: No winners.
WOMEN'S TEAM: Nicol David, Sharon Wee, Tricia Chuah, Lim Yoke Wah (Squash)
TOKOH SUKAN: Tan Sri Mohamed Ghazali Shafie (Athletics)
LEADERSHIP: Ramlan Harun (Golf)
SPECIAL AWARD: Abdul Malek Jeremiah (Equestrian), The late A. Perumal (Former Merdeka Stadium caretaker).