KUCHING: There was a school — Litah High School — that mass produced female athletes of calibre who went on to represent Sarawak and Malaysia back in the day.
They were mentored by an outstanding coach in the late Kho Joo Teck.
Chong Mei Ling was one of the standouts from the school, as were Thien Lee Choo, Kueh Sui Luan and Siew Eng.
Mei Ling, later known as Latifah Chong, after she married another Sarawakian athletics great Latif Olen in 1968.
A former basketballer, Latifah was converted into a runner after her former coach the late Lau Han Choon noticed her powerful runs while she was studying at the SRB Chung Hua primary school.
She later worked as a clerk
at the school when her Litah school coach persuaded her to take part in athletics competitions.
With proper training under his supervision, Latifah developed into a fine middle distance runner such as the 400m, 800m and sometime even took up the 200m.
From 1963 to 1968 for six years she was the state champion in the 400m and won the 800m from 1965 to 1967. In 1967, she also won the 200m title at the Sarawak Open.
In the same year in 1967, she represented the nation in the SEAP Games and won a bronze.
“I was running in the Borneo Games and there was no one who could beat me,” recalled Latifah who won the 400m event from 1963 to 1970.
She hung up her spikes in 1968 after she got married as she followed her husband — a police officer — who was posted to Miri.
“It was my former coach Lau Han Choon who started me in running by advising me to switch from basketball to running.
“At Litah High School there was a coach Kho Joo Teck who had great interest in athletics and guided me until I became a champion.
“He was a good coach as he also helped shape many other runners into champions.
“The Litah school relay team was undefeated in the state championships from 1963 to 1970 and in the Borneo Games, I was never beaten. I was running for fun,” she recalled.
“Because of him there were so many runners and in those days, we ran for the love of the state and there were no financial rewards involved.”
Looking back on her illustrious career, Latifah, who is a mother to three girls and two boys and grandmother to 18 grandchildren said she had no regrets over her involvement in sports.
Sports at that time in the 1960s gave her the opportunities to make new friends and gain fame. No financial rewards but to her, sports was simply great.
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