KUALA LUMPUR: Powerlifter P. Mariappan, the 1994 Melbourne World Wheelchair Championship triple gold medallist, is out of a job and penniless.
And he believed he may be paying the price for his 24 years of dedication to sports.
Mariappan, 47, who had represented the country in five Paralympic Games and won numerous medals at the international stage, has been told he is surplus to his employers' needs and is now living on a RM320 monthly aid from the Welfare Department.
It has been a year and two months since I was dismissed by my employer where I had served for 15 years, he said. They claimed that I was surplus to the company and also due to the economic recession.
But I believe that taking time off to train and participate in competitions played a part in the dismissal. I have been taking leave to train for the Paralympics, Far East and South Pacific Games For the Disabled (FESPIC Games) and the Commonwealth Games in 2002 and the Paralympic Games in 2004.
My boss' secretary used to scold me for taking time off to train but at the same time I could not just ignore the request from the Malaysian Paralympic Council (MPC) to attend centralised training, Mariappan said.
The 2002 FESPIC Games silver medallist said his employer had also demoted him from mail assistant to despatch boy before dismissing him.
Mariappan was paid RM16,000 by his previous employer as compensation for his 15 years of service.
I was earning RM1,200 a month, it was not a big amount but it was enough to put food on the table for my family. I have been using up my savings and it's all gone now, he said.
His predicament has also affected his training and preparations for the SEA Games in Manila this year and the FESPIC Games in 2006 as his disabled wife, B. Chandiga is also jobless.
Meanwhile, MPC deputy president Zainal Abu Zarin said they were aware of Mariappan's plight.
Yes, we are aware but we are still waiting for confirmation from the Ministry of Youth and Sports to approve our budget request for the 2006 FESPIC Games. If it is approved then we can give Mariappan an allowance to train, he said.
Mariappan, however, said he needed a job to feed his family, not an allowance. Bernama