This year marks 60 years of independence for Malaysia and as with every young nation, we are constantly looking forward and trying to find our place in the global arena. With the closing of the 2017 SEA Games, Malaysian athletes are now considered the best in the Southeast Asia as proven with the amazing medal haul!
Our sporting history has been an interesting one and our sportsmen and women have proven over time that with perseverance, patience, talent and hard work, they have become top contenders not only locally and within Asia, but also more often, on the international stage.
There are many more names that could be written about, but these are the few who graced tracks, fields, pools and courts locally and globally and become the pride of a grateful nation.
Credit: New Straits Times
- Tan Sri Dr. Jegathesan (fondly known as The Flying Doctor) is considered one of the greatest athletes in Malaysian sporting history. He was a sprinter who excelled at the 100m, 200m and 400m sprints and was the first Malaysian to reach the final of an Olympic event at the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo and Mexico City in 1968. He also won three gold medals at the 1966 Asian Games in Bangkok.
- Penang born Eddy Choong may have only been 1.62m in height but he more than made up for it with energy and tenacity. Badminton was his sport and he began competing all over the world during 1950s and into the 60s when he made a name for himself winning several times at the All England Open Badminton Championships, Thomas Cup competitions and won the Malayan Open singles championship in 1966 at the age of 36.
- Datuk Marina Chin was Malaysia’s ‘Track Queen’ during the 1970s and her specialties were the 100m and hurdles. During her sporting career, she won seven gold medals at the SEA Games and was Sportswoman of the Year in 1976 and 1977. Her passion for sports continues to this day as she mentors young athletes and was Chef de Mission of the Malaysian contingent at the 2017 SEA Games.
- As far as local footballing legends go, Mokhtar Dahari certainly lived up to the hype. The 1970s was an era of fantastic football in Malaysia and the national team were considered one of the best in Asia beating countries like Japan and South Korea. His nickname was ‘Supermokh’ due to his goal-scoring prowess, athleticism and natural talent. At his peak, he was best striker in Malaysia and Asia. He was offered a chance to play in Europe, but turned it down to remain in his beloved state of Selangor and to play for his country.
- Rabuan Pitt won the gold medal for the 100m at the 1982 Asian Games in New Dehli, and medals at both the 1979 and 1985 SEA Games held in Jakarta and Bangkok. His humble beginnings – youngest of eight children of a rubber tapper – incited him to always work hard, and he became a prolific sprinter competing in the 200m and 400m as well as the 100m. His professional athletic career was cut short by injury and he retired from athletics in 1985.
Credit: Utusan Online
- Nurul Huda Abdullah’s swimming career began at a young age and she competed in here first SEA Games at the age of 13. She went on to win an impressive 23 gold medals over three consecutive games from 1985 to 1989. She was the first female swimmer to break the 60-second mark in 100m freestyle and the five-minute mark for the 400m individual medley.
- As with most Malaysian athletes, Watson Nyambek had a nickname and was known as the ‘Flying Dayak’ in reference to his home state of Sarawak. Sprinting was his forte and he broke several national records, including his own, in 1998. He competed in two Olympic Games, Atlanta in 1996 and Sydney in 2000; but his greatest achievement was winning the silver at the Asian Athletics Championships in 1998.
- Another sprinter making waves at this time was Shanti Govindasamy. She began her sporting career in hockey and was good enough to be selected for the national team. She was spotted while playing hockey by a coach who noticed that her running skills were suited to becoming a sprinter. Her first SEA Games in 1989 didn’t pan out well and she only got silver for the 4x100m relay. Amazingly, she returned to the 1997 SEA Games and won the 100m and 200m events at the age of 30 after having her first child!
Credit: The Star Online
- Lee Chong Wei’s name is synonymous with badminton and he has won enough awards and medals to prove that at his prime, he was the best player in the world. He spent 199 consecutive weeks as world number one and has competed and won silver medals at three Olympics. He was discovered by Misbun Sidek, another badminton great, and began competing at the age of 17. His matches against his great rival, Lin Dan, were an exercise in speed, strength and wily play; and they will be missed.
- It’s safe to say that Nicol David is one of the most well known Malaysian athletes in the world. Squash is a sport requiring stamina, good reflexes and intelligent play, and Nicol possesses all these abilities in spades. She was ranked world number one at the age of 23, was the first Malaysian to win a British Open title and the first player to win the US Open three years in a row.
Credit: The Star Online
- Pandelela Rinong has retained her 10m platform gold at the 2017 Kuala Lumpur SEA Games and sealed her place in the Malaysia’s sporting history. She has represented the country at the Beijing, London and Rio Olympics and has won a bronze and silver for superb effort at the 10m synchronised platform. She’s the first Malaysian female athlete to win Olympic medals in a sport other than badminton.
- Azizulhasni Awang is an elite athlete and has dominated the track cycling for the last few years. He has won an Olympic bronze medal in the Keirin event at the Rio Olympics, and a gold at the World Championships this year. Known as the ‘Pocket Rocketman’ due to his small stature and intense speed, Azizulhasni is now training for the next Commonwealth Games (to be held next year in Gold Coast, Australia) and the Tokyo Olympics where he hopes to go for gold.