S.Sabapathy: I was nearly outfoxed by ‘athletics politics’ for a place in the 4 x 400m relay team to the 1972 Munich Olympic Games.
The relay quartet was made up of T Krishnan, B S Peyadesa, Hassan Osman and myself, with S Sivaraman as the reserve.
The five of us together with Ishtiaq Mobarak, Junaidah Aman, Zainuddin Wahab and Gladys Chai were in Cologne for a three-month training and coaching stint before going to the Olympic Village.
Just a couple of weeks before departing for the Games, Shamsuddin Jaffar, who was attending a coaching course in Cologne but was not an official in our Olympic contingent, approached athletics team manager Zainal Abidin and asked him to relegate me to be a reserve and promote Sivaraman as fourth member of the relay team.
Zainal Abidin obliged and told me I would be the reserve runner but I wasn’t willing to accept this sudden change of the relay team line-up.
Except for Krishnan, a teacher and I, an employee of the National Electricity Board, the other three runners were employed by Malaysian Prisons. Shamsuddin, who was also with Prisons, was their club coach.
I then demanded a 400m time trial be conducted in Cologne between Peyadesa, Hassan, Sivaraman and myself to determine who should qualify to be in the team. Krishnan was exempted as he was also entered for the 400m event in the Games.
However, Payadesa, Hassan and Sivaraman suggested a 300m run instead of a 400m time trial.
I accepted the challenge. What the three of them did not realise was that I was very fast in the last 100m, having clocked a personal best of 10.6 seconds in a Malaysian government services meet just before leaving Malaysia. And also had endurance on my side.
They were no match for me. I outran all three of them in a time of 33.1 seconds over the 300m. I had outfoxed them. They had no choice but to reinstate me as a regular member of the relay team for the Olympic Games.
After the trial, I told the team manager, “I came to run in the Olympics and not to watch the Olympics.”