Ipoh Echo had a one-on-one with Ipoh-born athlete, Dato’ Asir Victor who ran the 400m sprint in three Olympics namely, Tokyo (1964), Mexico (1968) and Munich (1972).
To date, he is the only Malaysian who has represented the country in three Olympic Games in athletics. “Considered a sprint event, 400m tests one’s speed, stamina and endurance. You’ve to go all out, from the starting block till the finish line. It’s an interesting event and people like to watch it,” said Victor.
It all began in 1948 when Victor chased his mischievous friend, a school champion runner, who bolted with his pencil box while in primary school. The school headmaster, who noticed how he outran the best took him under his wing. At the age of 14, he cycled from Ipoh to Penang to partake in a 4x400m relay with his friends, reflecting his love for the sport.
“I’d a string of wins at the Perak Amateur Athletic Association Meet at Ipoh Padang. From 1955 onwards, I started competing in bigger meets. When I took part in the Olympic trial for the Rome Olympics at Ipoh Padang, I clocked 50 seconds for the 400m,” said the 78-year-old, who made his debut as a national athlete in 1960. His time of 47.1 seconds remains unbroken in Perak for the past 53 years.
He obtained four silvers from the Asian Games held in 1962, 1966, 1970 and 1974. His other feats include winning 14 gold medals in the Sea Games for the 400m and 4x400m categories. He represented the country in the 1962 and 1966 Commonwealth Games.
“Those days, we didn’t have coaches or receive financial support. I was self-taught and self-funded with guidance from my father. I ran barefoot before getting a pair of spikes,” he exclaimed.
How does it feel to be in the Olympics? “It’s great, as there were participants from 100 over countries. I felt nervous seeing other bigger-sized runners, as I was the shortest one then at 5 foot 5. As for the Mexico Olympics, we trained in Cameron Highlands to get used to the high altitude,” Victor recalled.
“Equally memorable was the 1962 Jakarta Asian Games, my very first. I ran the 400m at 2pm. The semi-final was at 2.40pm with only a 40-minute break in between. I was still panting when the final was fixed at 3.20pm, I almost collapsed. Clocking 48.8 seconds, 48.6 seconds and 48.6 seconds respectively, the anxiety remained etched in my memory.”
Asir retired in 1973 and currently is active in veteran competitions all over the world. He trains on his own at the D.R. Seenivasagam Park in the afternoon three times a week.
“My dream is to win a gold medal for Malaysia in the “Z” category of the World Masters Championship. The “Z” category is meant for those in the 100-120 years old bracket. It’s 22 years from now.
My favourite place to compete is Puerto Rico, as I enjoy the weather and scenery,” the amiable sprinter revealed.
“My late father, Asirvatham and my mother, Syriapusham, are my biggest supporters,” he added. Throughout his athletic career, he had met and exchanged pleasantries with luminaries such as the Duke of Edinburgh, Sukarno, Indira Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Tun Abdul Razak and even Idi Amin.
“Athletes today can’t take the strain of training, therefore, they can’t go far. Nothing is impossible when you put your mind to it. And remember, God is always here with you,” he insisted.
“No pain, no gain” that is the mantra.