Saturday July 21, 2012
Flying Doctor’s three eventful Olympics set a benchmark
By AFTAR SINGH
TAN Sri Dr Mani Jegathesan has featured in three Olympics – as a schoolboy, an undergraduate and as a doctor. And he qualified on merit for all three Olympics.
The Kuala Lumpur-born Jegathesan, known as the ‘Flying Doctor’, was only 16 when he made his debut in Rome 1960 in the 400m.
Although he failed to reach the second round, he was the youngest sprinter to compete in the Olympics. Four years later, he ran the 200m in the Tokyo Games, this time as a medical student at the University of Singapore. Despite being down with chickenpox, Jegathesan clocked 20.9 (hand-time) in the semi-finals.
He was the first Malaysian to reach the semi-finals in athletics at the Olympics.
Dr Jegathesan said that although he reached the semi-finals, he was unhappy with his performance as he was hoping to clock a personal best.
“I did 20.5 in training and was hoping to improve further in Tokyo but I couldn’t because of the chickenpox,” he said. Dr Jegathesan made his third and final appearance in the 1968 Mexico Games as a young doctor at the age of 24. He not only reached the semi-finals again but clocked 20.92 (electronic time) in the 200m, which remains the national record 44 years later.
Dr Jegathesan, who is the chairman of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) and Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) medical chairman, said his best moments were competing against the world’s best and reaching the semi-finals twice in the 200m.
“The highlight was the 20.92, which stands as the national record till today,” said Dr Jegathesan, now a sprightly 68.
“The Olympics is the world’s biggest sporting event and the best place to show your ability while competing against your peers.
“In some events, Malaysian athletes don’t stand a chance to win medals but that shouldn’t stop them achieving their personal best,” said Dr Jegathesan, who has been the pro chancellor of University Sains Malaysia (USM) since last year.