Friday September 28, 2012
Rajamani still running strong — for a noble cause
IT HAS been decades since former sprint queen Datuk M. Rajamani’s illustrious athletics career ended, but she is still running strong, albeit for a different cause – seeking a better deal for former athletes.
Rajamani, who will turn 70 in December, has two wishes – to see the birth of a new pension scheme for former athletes and a more vigorous participation of former athletes in the National Athlete Welfare Foundation (Yakeb).
She is keeping her fingers crossed that the government will look beyond rewarding only Olympic medallists.
Currently, all gold, silver and bronze medallists at the Olympic Games enjoy a lucrative monthly pension scheme. World No. 2 shuttler Lee Chong Wei, for instance, gets to take home RM3,000 a month for winning a silver at the London Olympic Games.
“But what about athletes who have devoted their whole life to sports and sacrificed just as much as the medallists? They do not have a medal to show for all their hard work, blood, sweat and tears,” she said.
“Many former athletes have sacrificed a lot for the sport but are not recognised because they did not win a medal. I would like the government to look into ways to give a substantial amount as pension to these athletes.
“It does not have to be much ... just enough for them to enjoy their lives once their sporting career is over. More than just the money, the act itself will show how much their contribution is appreciated.”
Rajamani, who is one of the pioneer members of Yakeb when the body was established in 2008, said many former athletes are missing out on the benefits that they can enjoy under the welfare foundation.
“Who can understand athletes better than another athlete? This is a great platform for former athletes to stay connected and continue to support one another,” said Rajamani.
Yakeb was formed to safeguard the interest and to look into the welfare of current and former athletes who have competed at the SEA Games, Asian Games, Commonwealth Games, Olympic Games and several selected top-notch Asian meets.
They get to enjoy a special assistance scheme, monthly allowance, educational opportunities, life insurance scheme and hospitalisation assistance.
But what Rajamani likes most about Yakeb is that the team, under the leadership of Datuk Jamil Salleh, serve each and every athlete tirelessly irrespective of colour, creed or credentials.
Rajamani commended her two good friends – Aminuddin Mohd Nasir (Yakeb operations manager) and Zuhairi Abdul Manaf (Yakeb corporate services) – for constantly being on their toes and looking at opportunities to engage the former athletes and to show their care and concern for the sick.
They also look for platforms to highlight the lives and careers of the former greats by giving them avenues for public speaking, officiating at events and making special appearances during significant functions.
“The athletes’ membership card entitles them to enjoy discounts at certain places. It is sad that some athletes do not want to be associated with Yakeb because they are quite well off – but they do not see that this is a platform for athletes to support one another. The bigger the group, the bigger the funding we can get ... and we can reach out to more athletes,” said Rajamani.
There are 1,700 athletes registered with Yakeb, including 300 current athletes.
Until the end of 2011, a total of RM4.73mil have been used for medical, medicine and insurance purposes. Yakeb also publish a magazine and their website www.yakeb.org.my is filled with wonderful stories from the past, making it a good reference point as far as the achievements of the former greats are concerned.
“I will turn 70 next year but I do not intend to slow down. There is still so much to do for Malaysian sport and I will continue to look into the welfare of former athletes under Yakeb,” she concluded.
En-lightning tale of survival