Of sports, rewards and recognitions
By:Karambir Singh

A trophy carries dust. Memories last forever.

– Mary Lou Retton, American gymnast

Years of hard slog, physical preparations, mental focus, determination, self-discipline and time.

These are just a few of the sacrifices a sportsperson has to make in his or her journey to participate in sporting activities and the road towards a championship.

The success that is seen by the public is actually just the tip of the iceberg. The truth of the matter is that most of us do not see or know of the actual grind that goes on behind the scene or what lies beneath the success. In such endeavours, the hard work is the nine-tenth of the iceberg below the surface of the water.

Many international sports personalities even become goodwill ambassadors for their counties and project their country in a favourable light across the world. This brings many tangible and intangible benefit to the nation.

So, who do we have as inspirational sporting figures at our national or ‘Wilayah Sarawak’ level? Obviously, we do have our fair share of these talented people.

We have squash star, Datuk Nicol Ann David from Penang, who has the merit of being the only athlete in the world to have sustained a No. 1 ranking for almost nine years. She is considered one of the greatest squash players of all time.

Nicol is also UNDP’s Goodwill Ambassador for Malaysia and helps to bring attention to the marginalised and vulnerable in society.

Nicol, DB PJN DSPN KMN AMN, is now aged 37 is retired and reported as being worth $88 million (RM361 million).

Just a few days ago it was a gold medal for Kuching-born Bonnie Bunyau Gustin at the World Para Powerlifting World Cup. This 20-year-old also won two gold medals in 2019 and is currently ranked number one in the world in the 72kg category.

Despite his personal challenges, he did Sarawak proud and I am sure we will hear more from him and motivate our youth towards achieving their goals.

Pandelela Rinong, 28, and the first Malaysian female athlete to win an Olympic medal in 2012, has just won Malaysia its first-ever gold medal at the Fina Diving World Cup.

She has received many accolades and Sarawak recognised her as Sarawak Sportswoman of the Year: 2010, 2011–12. In addition, she was conferred the awards of AMN (federal) and JBK (Sarawak). Pandelela’s great achievements to date have seen her receive a lifelong pension of RM3,000.

Congratulations poured in from across the nation and this included Sarawak’s Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah who praised her as well.

There were suggestions by the public that she be further rewarded with datukship and other financial benefits.

The Youth and Sports Minister responded with “… it was not good to always reward an athlete each time he or she won something.” and “If we keep on thinking of giving rewards every time somebody gets a gold medal or achieves fame…”

He further commented that “… she’s only 28 years old, don’t spoil her. I mean can you imagine someone in their 20s having a Datukship? It will be very difficult for her to interact normally outside — when you got friends outside, they call you ‘Datuk’ and things like that,” also did not go down well.

These statements did not sit well with the public. The response by netizens was fast, furious and indeed brutal. The above statement read on their own do convey a lack of appreciation and gratitude.

However, if read in its entirety and if one had full knowledge of the awards and benefits already granted it would come across as sensible and certainly lacked malice. His words of encouragement were made but overshadowed.

But still, the image of politicians took another severe hammering. The selectively quoted statements were interpreted to be demoralising. There were references to the fact that many received datukship even when they did not deserve it and including undeserved remunerations for politicians.

The minister did to his credit clarify and opined that he was misunderstood by netizens. But as is usual in such circumstances, not much attention was paid to the clarification.

My fellow columnist in his column yesterday went to great lengths to get the opinion of the great sports lady herself. She responded as a professional and to summarise, stated it is a non-issue for her.

Pandelela is already to all intents and purposes an ambassador for Sarawak to the rest of Malaysia and to the rest of the world.

I am sure the Chief Minister and his team will do their part and do the right thing for her and all Sarawakians.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.

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New Sarawak Tribune is a Sarawakian news portal that highlights Sarawak-centric news and other stories of relevance to Sarawak.

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