Choice of torch runners come under fire

KUALA LUMPUR: The selection of torchbearers by the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) for the Malaysian leg of the Beijing Olympics Torch Relay held on Monday has come under fire from former Olympians.

Isthiaq Mubarak, who represented the country in three Olympics, namely the 1968 in Mexico, 1972 in Munich and 1976 in Montreal, was sad that he and a number of former Olympians who were well into their 60s and who might not be around when the next torch run comes around, were sidelined.

“There were so many torch bearers who were not even part of the Olympics but were included while people like me who has been inducted into the Hall of Fame was not even considered. Where is the Olympism?” he asked.

Former Asian Games bronze medallist Rajemah Sheikh Ahmad, the wife of former Olympian Kamaruddin Maidin, had called the selection of torchbearers for the Torch Relay a shame to the Olympic ideals.

“My husband represented the country in the 1960 Rome Olympics but the OCM did not even have the courtesy to invite him to witness the run, let alone become a torchbearer. I would not mind if there were too many former Olympians that my husband had to be left out but when I saw the list, I was shocked.

Hot topic: Former swimmer Nurul Huda Abdullah carrying the Olympic flame during the Beijing Olympic torch relay in Kuala Lumpur on Monday. – GLENN GUAN/The Star

“Since when did astronauts, someone who went on a solo expedition to the North Pole, Inspector-General of Police, director-general of the National Sports Council, National Sports Institute and Youth and Sports Ministry secretary general and Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir became Olympians?” asked Rajemah who contacted Bernama to express her dissatisfaction.

Kamaruddin was a national triple jump and long jump champion during his heydays in the 1960s while Rajemah was part of the 4x100m quartet who won a bronze medal in the 1966 Asian Games.

Apart from Kamaruddin, former men’s 110m hurdles champion Isthiaq Mubarak, javelin thrower Datuk Nashatar Singh, sprinter Datuk M. Rajamani, who were all Olympians, were also not part of the event, while Marina Chin, who had only represented the country at SEA Games level, was chosen ahead of them.

In 1966, Rajemah together with Rajamani, Jackie Clieman and Cherryl Dorral, clinched a bronze in Bangkok which remains the highest feat by a Malaysian women relay team at the Asian Games till today.

Meanwhile, OCM secretary Datuk Sieh Kok Chi said the torch relay was not meant for athletes alone, but for a mixed group, namely former athletes, current athletes, public sector, non-governmental organisations and sponsors.

“We had requested the respective associations to nominate some names but only squash and tenpin bowling replied, so we had to make other arrangements.

However, if these people were really interested in participating, they could have come forward, but now it is too late,” said Kok Chi.

He said the distribution was done fairly and that OCM could not accommodate all former Olympians. – Bernama

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