Archive for November, 2012

In memory of my beloved coach

My favorite photo taken together with coach

This is a post to commemorate En. Shazan Amir Abdul Rahman, who was my athletic coach during my undergraduate studies. He made it possible for me to realize one of my childhood dreams of being a better runner as well as to heighten my passion for running. I feel the urge to write this lest I succumb to amnesia/alzheimer’s (touch wood!).

The recruitment pamphlet which gave an overview of coach’s athletic achievements.

In primary school, I did run for my house in the sports day every year but I never won any medals (not in running, I won a bronze medal for high-jumping though, haha), I was like always 4th-6th fastest in the races. I always watched with (good kind of) jealousy when my friends got to represent the school.

Then during secondary school time, the selection of runners was not based on merit-based system, but cronyism! It depended on whether u knew the captain, or not! So I did not get to run at all, not until Form 5, when I was elected to be 1 of the committee members of green house out of my leadership qualities (instead of my athletic gene -_-). Green house was never the overall champion for the past 4 years I studied in SMKK. I thought I wanted to create history (kiasu!). The first reformation needed= the implementation of merit-based selection. I attended the sukan tara and got in touch with those who were fast runners and got them to represent the house. Guess what, I was one of the faster runners too! Not only green house became the overall champion for the year of 2000 sports day, I went home with 2 medals too! Bronze for 200m and silver for 4 x 100m relay!

Green house=the overall champion in 2000! Roar!

After entering university, my friends in UTM told me that you have to be at least a district runner in order to join the team there. I was not! I had some battles with my inferiority complex before writing down my name on the recruitment sheet of KUiTTHO athletic team on the notice board.

During my first meeting with coach, I introduced, “Hi, everyone! I am Samantha, just call me Sam!” A few years later, coach told me somehow this scene of me introducing myself left a vivid print in his mind. During the first 3 years being in the athletic team, I was contented only with being one of the finalists in the Malaysian University Games (MASUM). I joined training diligently but not wholeheartedly. I was actively involved in other clubs and organizing all sorts of programs that I had to skip training at times. Coach always advised me not to spread myself too thin. “Sam, if you are good at everything, you are a nobody; but if you are very good at only 1 thing, then you are somebody!”

At the Malaysian Universities Games

Coach becoming the facilitator of the fitness workshop organized by my team

During my second year in university, I was a bit depressed for I was out of my comfort zone: friends all moved out of hostels; I felt my academic performance was on the decline and etc. I treated the athletic training like an occasion for me to vent my negative emotion and energy. Whenever coach asked me to run, I ran flat out! Coach was so surprised and happy at the same time with my improvement, “Sam is guaranteed of at least a bronze medal this year!” Who knows, I was selected to represent the university (and Malaysia to a certain extent) for a study tour to South Korea which was 2 weeks before MASUM. I had to skip the intensive training totally. By the time I came back from South Korea, not only I lost my stamina, I put on weight as well. Koyak!

Raya open house at coach’s place

Then in 2004, something challenged my ego, I decided that I wanted to win a medal. I remember calling coach, “Coach, I want to win. Teach me how. Should I change my event to a less popular one, so that I stand higher chance of winning?” Coach laughed, “No need, you just have to train with me.”

During early season of training for MASUM 2005, there was a few then district female runners joining the team but they could not bear the torment of hell-like training from coach. After the hill run session at Taman Soga, one girl shouted, “This is just crazy!” Asked whether she’ll come for training again, she said NO outright. I was the only female runner left for the season and I strove on.

Coach was still very healthy and built too, even when he’s already in his 60-ies. One day, we had our afternoon intensive training at Stadium Batu Pahat. PT wasn’t feeling well, so she waited for us at the grand stand. She asked me later where I had been because from the distance, she did not see me. I called this the “eclipse effect” (haha!): I was actually standing in front of coach and when PT viewed from coach’s back, I was obscured by coach. This is to illustrate how built was coach back then (the argument that I was small-built was ruled out, obviously I was not, am not and never will be!).

Our training targeted to address different aspects of running: speed, strength and endurance. Coach always did weightlifting together with my teammates in the gym. More often than not, the young guys could not keep up with coach’s stamina.

Most of the time, coach did not really get paid from KUiTTHO. But knowing that I was really committed, rain or shine, he would come all the way to KUiTTHO just to train me alone at times (the rest skipped training!). We trained 3 times a week with coach’s presence and I trained on my own or with other team mates for the rest of the 4 days. So for sure I met coach more than my biological papa (Haha!), that’s why he’s like a father figure to me after all.

my training log

During the last training before our 1st circuit of MASUM at UUM, coach clocked my 400m run. I was disappointed, “Coach, I trained so hard this year and I feel I am so much fitter now, how come my timing is still the same like last year’s?” Judging from previous records, with such timing, I could only qualify into final. To be able to win at least the bronze medal, I needed to be 6 seconds faster. Mind you I was running short distance, 6 seconds are a lot! “Maybe because you were running alone just now, no competition. It’s ok, you just have to beat your personal best.”

My major event was 400m run, but coach registered for 100m and 200m for me as well. “Go run, for fun!” Coach said. Everyone in the team completed their events on the afternoon of 16 Jan 2005, except me, my 400m final was scheduled at night! I was such an underdog and one team mate who’s renowned for being inconsiderate even suggested, “Sam, since you won’t win, do you want to consider skipping your race so that we can go back to Johor now?”

Because no one had any special expectation on me, not even myself, I was free from stress! I remember myself comforting one girl from UM, who’s so nervous before the run that she’ll finish last, “It’s ok, I won’t be too far away from the last. And don’t be afraid to finish last, we just have to try to beat our personal best.” I requested Peow to clock my run from the finish line.

After the gun was fired, I led the run from the start, until the finish line! I was not sure if I was leading at first but I saw no one next to me from both corners of my eyes. After dashing through the line, I searched for Peow, there he was, standing and holding his timer, with his mouth agape. I asked using body language, “What’s my place” Still in his shock expression, he pointed 1 finger up! I had tears in eyes and shouted, “Please help me call coach and tell him this good news!” I basically did not have time to feel excited for what I had just achieved, because I heard the final call for finalists of 100m to be at the starting line. I hurried over. Other athletes congratulated me and many said, “What?! You are running for 100m as well right after your 400m run? Are you an iron lady?” I was charged with so much adrenaline and endorphin that the run was a satisfactory one and I even beat the girl from UTM whom I admired since the first year I joined MASUM.

A few seconds into the run of fame

Last 100m!

When I finally walked back to the grand stand, I was surrounded by cheers; it was the first ever gold medal for KUiTTHO in MASUM after all! Team mates who were watching my run told me they actually shut their eyes when I was leading the run until the 300th m because their hearts cannot take the pressure if I lost momentum before reaching the finish line.

Post prize-giving

I was a very self-critical person, when I got to see coach finally after the run, I said, “Coach, I think I’m the worst champion ever! Based on previous records, I can only have a bronze medal with the timing.” Coach smiled and said, “The more important thing is, you train hard for it. When the right opportunity comes, you just snatch it.” Coach continued, “You may not be a born champion, but you are a fighter, Sam!” Coach’s remark that I am a fighter always echoes in my mind whenever I meet with obstacles in life, even until today.

After the 2005 MASUM, I retired from athletic team and shifted my focus to my final year project. Upon graduation, busy with my worldly pursuit, I kept in touch with coach on and off, mostly during Hari Raya that I would call to greet and update him about my hot and happening. I went back to Batu Pahat to visit coach in 2007 together with Suecing and Skye.

Before I went to Melbourne in 2010, I went back to BP to settle my scholarship application and that was the last time I met coach, in the pink.

Fast forward to this year, close to Raya, I happily called to coach’s mobile phone trying to fix an appointment to visit him. His phone was forever switched off. I then called to his house and my first few calls weren’t picked up until finally one night coach’s granddaughter answered. She said, “Atuk sakit lah, tak boleh jawab!” Before I could ask further, the little girl hung my call. My heart sunk. I shared my worries with Sue, she consoled me by saying that maybe it’s just flu.

I called again the next day. This time coach’s wife picked up my call.

“Hi, Makcik! This is Sam here, anak olahraga of coach from ITO! Is coach around?”

“Hi, Sam! Coach is not well, in fact he’s very ill…” I can hear her voice trembling.

My heart skipped a beat. I asked carefully, “What kind of illness…?”

“It’s lung cancer….”

Imagine my devastation: before I called, I actually was already playing the mental picture that I’ll be having nice chat with coach at his house, followed by nice Raya feast, and I can share with coach my OZ and NZ experiences.

It was a really sad scene when I got to see coach in his sick bed. He was so skinny, almost like skeleton alive. When Kak M asked if he remembers me, he smiled and nodded. I was trying very hard to restrain myself from crying in front of coach. Makcik and Kak M asked me to persuade coach to take his medication and food, I can’t help anymore, I was weeping while saying, “Coach, you have to strive on, this is a battle. Eat something…”

What saddened me even more was what Kak M told me after that. She said only pioneer athletes like me, Kang and Along were keeping close contact with coach. For the new athletes, even though they are all still in BP, they chose only to show concern via facebook (what’s wrong with this world????!).

Coach passed away 3 weeks after my visit and I was really sad that I could not really do anything more. Worse still, I received Kak M’s sms notifying me the time of coach’s funeral around 8am (I always put my phone on silent mode when I’m asleep) when the funeral’s at 10am, at BP. I did not make it to pay last respect to this kind man.

Last but not least, R.I.P., coach. I am really glad and proud to be one of your anak-anak olahraga (not a particularly brilliant one though). Thanks for everything. I am really grateful that a man of your stature (ex-national coach) was willing to put so many efforts in helping a nobody like me to achieve my goal. Now that if I ever have children or even grandchildren, I can proudly tell how fast I used to run or to be more specific, how I made it to breaking my own limit and pushing the boundary!

Me and my attachment problem(s) – Part 1

More often than not, I give vent to my sentimentalism by crying….

**********

I developed bond even with my stuffed toy, Hippo!

I once sent hippo for dry cleaning and when I took him back from laundry shop, to my astonishment, his plush became hardened. I was devastated and I wept. Mama then tried to comfort, “Alamak, almost 30 already still want to cry for soft toy! Mama sponsors you to buy a new one, ok?” I cried harder, “It’s not the same Hippo if I buy a new one!!!”

I harbored resentment toward the non-professionalism of the laundry shop and felt that justice had to be done for Hippo. So I went back to the laundry shop, asked for the boss’s phone number and I called. After lodging the complaint that his staff spoiled the condition of my Hippo, the boss said, “How much is your soft toy? I am willing to pay for your damage”.

This ruffled me even more! “It’s not about the money you know?!” I shouted over the phone.

“Then what do you want me to do?” The boss asked in an innocent tone.

I whispered: I just want Hippo to be normal again…

**********

CP has been a supportive friend during my Melbourne days. I dropped by Melbourne before coming home to catch up with good friends and bid farewell. When I had to part with CP, he patted on my back, “All the best! Be good!”

I had tears welling up and said, “We will be separated forever!”

“Oh, come on! Cambodia and Malaysia are only 2 hours flight away!” Well, I can’t fight CP and his optimism (and eloquence)!

**********

Me: I almost stop listening to Chinese songs since 2006.

Friend: I used to not listen to Chinese song. But heck, English song just failed to describe my hearty feeling 50% of the time. Most of the time, I just like the tune… The new song lyrics are quite incomparable to Chinese song…

Me: That’s the problem with Chinese songs, I get too connected most of the time, so I stop. I’m a melancholic soul…

**********

Part 2aPart 2b


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Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

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Inferno by Dan Brown

For one more day by Mitch Albom

A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez

A study in scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

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