MIRI: Sarawak's first Olympian Bala Ditta died of stomach cancer at his house in Padang Kerbau here on Tuesday. He was 66.
He left behind wife Ubung Taie Riwat, five children and four grandchildren.
Fondly known as Kuda, Bala was at the peak of his athletics career at 27, when he competed in the preliminary rounds of the 100m hurdles at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. He failed to reach the semi-finals but returned a credible 14.6.
Bala was Sarawak's contribution to Malaysia's Golden Age of Athletics in the 1960s. The greats in that era included Datuk Dr Mani Jegathesan, M. Subramaniam, M. Raja Mani, Dilbagh Singh Kler, Nashatar Singh and Ishtiaq Mobarak.
His sports career began when he was singled out for special training in athletics by the Police Commanding Officer, Eric Edmid. He was then a member of the Force at 23.
He went on to win a silver medal in the 1971 SEAP Games in and a bronze in the 1973 Games in Singapore.
After retiring from active sports, he continued coaching the Police Field Force (General Operations Force now) recruits until final retirement in December 1988.
In the book published by the Sarawak Sports Council and the Sports Writers' Association of Sawarak in 1996, there is a paragraph which reads: “Today 32 years later, there is yet to be a sportsman, who can hold a candle to Bala Ditta.” – Bernama