Semret Singh: One of my sweetest memories in athletics was setting a Malaysian record for the hammer throw at the 1981 Australian Spring Championship in Perth.
Not only did I set a new distance of 50.5 metres for this event which bettered my Pitaji (father) Genda Singh’s record, I also defeated Australia‘s Matt Barber, the defending champion. This came after my three-month training stint in Perth. All of a sudden, people started taking notice of this Malaysian athlete at the Perry Lake Stadium. One of them was a talent scout attached to a European athletics club.
After the many back-slapping and bear hugs from my competitors and spectators, this talent scout took me aside and made me an offer to turn professional with his club.
He then handed me several sheets of paper, which were supposed to be a contract, and asked me to take my time to read them and get back to him the following day.
As I browsed through it that night in my room, I was totally surprised by its contents. It was like a once in a lifetime offer and I found it too good to be true.
They were offering me a US$18,000 monthly salary, a Mercedes Benz (model was not mentioned), a bungalow, and the possibility of being a citizen of the country where the club was situated.
As for prize money winnings, and the personal sponsorship, they did not mention the quantum I will receive, but were open for discussion after I signed the contract.
However, there was one paragraph that caught my eye and I was uncomfortable with it. It was regarding medical and clinical services which read: “We will provide the best and you will not question us.»
And I had to agree to all these terms and conditions without any being deleted or for further discussion.
As I stared at these words “medical and clinical services,” my thoughts took me back to November 27th, 1977 in my home in Ipoh with my Pitaji Genda Singh and how I ended up being involved in the hammer throw.My Pitaji, was the undisputed hammer throwing hero in our family and he had just returned after winning the bronze medal in the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games. He achieved this despite going against doctor’s advice as he was injured with a pectoral muscle tear.
All strapped with plasters on his chest, he called me and all my other siblings, brothers Kulwant Singh, Kaldip Singh, Manohor Singh, and Mahinderjit Singh and sister Persin Kaur together. He announced that this was his last competition internationally.
He then looked at us and said: “One of you will have to carry on where I left off.’’ It was more like an order, and he did not say which one of us.
There was silence among us siblings. We just looked at one another but no one said a word. As soon as we were out of earshot, all my siblings unanimously decided that I should be the chosen one. You have to carry on with the legacy as you are the eldest in the family.”A couple of days later after careful thought, I informed my Pitaji at lunchtime that I would continue where he left off. I was just 22 years of age and had never thrown a hammer as I was more a 400m runner.
My Pitaji beamed with delight and said: “Train with the right attitude and stay clean.”
My Pitaji’s words especially “stay clean” jolted me to the situation in Perth and the contract. So, when I met up with the talent scout I enquired:” ‘‘Does medical and clinical services mean I have to go on anabolic steroids?”
He was slient and I told him I cannot accept the offer although it was very tempting. He was surprised and never tried to change my mind.
As for me, the offer was too good to be true and I have had no regrets turning my back on a professional career. I continued to compete internationally until the 1989 SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur and thus fulfilling my Pitaji’s dream.