State’s iconic pole vaulter dies aged 74

Albert as chief security officer of Taiyo Yuden.

KUCHING: Sarawak’s legendary pole vaulter and nation’s sporting icon in the 1960s and 1970s Albert Blassan has passed away at the age of 74.

In an obituary shared by his family, they said the former athlete died at 1.31pm at his residence on Saturday (July 31).

Born May 22, 1947, Albert made a name for himself in sporting history being undefeated for thirteen years in pole vault, dominating the sport not only in Sarawak but in Malaysia in 1960s and 1970s.

He dominated the event at the Borneo Games as he remained undefeated in three games from 1967 to 1969. In fact, he was the first Sarawakian to achieve a record of 12 ft 4 in set in the Sarawak AAA Games in 1966, a record that stood unbroken for more than a decade.

He also represented the nation in the Southeast Asia Peninsular Games (SEAP Games) held in Bangkok in 1967; Rangoon, Burma (now Myanmar) in 1969; Kuala Lumpur in 1971 and Singapore in 1973 where he achieved the fourth placing with a height of 3.80m.

Albert, whose alma mater was SMK St. Thomas described himself earlier in an interview a few months back that he was an all-rounder excelling in the 100m, 110m hurdles and high jump beside the pole vault.

While in school, he was interested in weightlifting too, an involvement where he built his upper body strength which contributed to him excelling in the pole vault event.

In that interview, Albert said he was spotted by visiting American coach Bill Miller while in a coaching course held at the Jubilee Ground in 1966. He also trained under local coach and former sprinter great Joseph Lee Gut Hing.

Besides his sporting career, Albert also took pride in his job as Deputy Superintendent of Prisons until he retired in 2003 and later was employed as chief security officer of a private company, Taiyo Yuden in Kuching.

He was awarded the Pingat Pangkuan Negera (PPN) by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong in 1998. In 2001, he received the Ahli Bintang Sarawak (ABS) medal, recommended by the Prisons Department. He also received the meritorious service medal Pingat Perhidmatan Terpuji (PPT).

Albert was a humble and amiable person who also enjoyed singing. He was a popular Elvis tribute artiste too having performed in many parts of Sarawak and Kuala Lumpur.

He left behind his wife Elizabeth Acheng, daughters Sonia, Zenia, Imelda, son Jeremy and godson Abraham as well as 14 grandchildren.

His remains would be laid to rest after a funerary service and blessing today (Aug 2) at the Siol Kandis Catholic Cemetery, Jalan Bako.