Paralympic Games: Mariappan eyes golden farewell

PETALING JAYA: Veteran powerlifter Mariappan Perumal wants to leave the sports stage with a bang and he will be making a final push for the gold medal in the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing. 

The unemployed 48-year-old father of three children said that he was prepared to make the sacrifices to fulfil a golden dream after returning home twice with the bronze from the Paralympics in Seoul (1988) and Barcelona (1992). 

“I am going to retire after the 2008 Paralympics,” said a determined Mariappan at his home in Taman Wilayah Selayang in Batu Caves yesterday. “Age is not on my side but I am prepared to push myself in training to get there. I have won many gold medals on the international stage but the missing one is from the Paralympics. It won’t be easy but I will go all out even though I have family commitments and face financial constraints.” 

Mariappan, has been jobless since his former employers, Matheson PFC Group, shut down business two years ago. The former mailroom assistant was paid RM16,000 as compensation for his 15 years service and is now living on a RM320 monthly subsidy from the Welfare Department. 

FESTIVE JOY: Veteran powerlifter P. Mariappan, his wife Chandriga, baby Thaarani, son Sreetharan and daughter Tanuja light up for Deepavali at their home in Taman Wilayah Selayang in Batu Caves. Mariappan, who is jobless, is praying for a brighter future for his family. --STARpic by ONG SOON HIN

He has three children – Tanuja (nine years old), Sreetharan (seven) and Thaarani (18 months). His disabled wife, B. Chandriga, is also jobless. 

“Several influential people have promised to get me a job to care for my family but nothing has materialised. I used to earn RM1,200 a month before and I hope that I will be able to get a job to make life better for my family,” said Mariappan, who was afflicted with polio when he was three-years-old. 

But despite the financial contraints, Mariappan is not about to give up the sport, which he has been involved in for 26 years now. He trains daily at the gymnasium in the Raja Muda Stadium. 

He has won more than 50 medals since making his debut at the International Stoke Mandeville Wheelchair Sports Federation Games (ISMG) in London in 1981. He went on to make seven other trips to London for competitions. 

Mariappan has also gone for international competitions in Hong Kong, Barcelona, Seoul, Manchester, Atlanta, Bangkok, Sydney, Melbourne, Athens, Dubai, Seoul and Manila. 

“I have no regret. I enjoy the sport and train regularly on my own. There is no one to coach me,” said Mariappan, who is down to compete in the Ninth Far East and South Pacific (Fespic) Games, which will be held in Kuala Lumpur from Nov 25-Dec 1. 

“I travel on my improvised three-wheel motorbike, which is rusty and can break down anytime. This tells how much I love the sport. I hope that I will get more recognition and support.” 

Mariappan has taken part in many major international competitions for the handicap, including the Fespic Games, Commonwealth Games and the world weightlifting championships. 

He has taken part in five consecutive Paralympics. After the bronze medal efforts in Seoul and Barcelona, Mariappan went on to finish fifth in Atlanta (1996), fourth in Sydney (2000) and fifth in Athens (2004). 

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