M. Ragu

Ex-athletes add heat on All Comers organiser

Several former athletes have taken the organiser of the recent Perak All Comers athletics meet to task after a runner collapsed due to exhaustion while two others pulled out in the 10,000m race held in scorching heat on Feb 24.

Decorated walker V. Subramaniam said it was mind-boggling that the long distance event was held in the afternoon, given the current heat wave.

Ipoh recorded a maximum temperature of 35 degree Celsius over the weekend.

“Such events are usually held early in the morning or late evening. Doing 25 laps under such hot conditions will not be easy even for the best athletes. The timing will not be reflective of the athlete’s true capabilities,” said Subramaniam.

“Most organisers just want to finish off the competition. Unfortunately, instances like this portray a bad image of them.”

Subramaniam said it was unfortunate that only one runner completed the race.

An exhausted M. Ragu, representing Johor Baru’s Team Treximo, collapsed in the final lap of the 3.10pm race at Perak Stadium.

M. Ragu, Johor Baru
Ragu surrounded by St John’s Ambulance volunteers after he collapsed during the 10,000m race.

Two others did not finish the race. It is unclear if Chin Hong Zhang (UPSI Fox Athletics) and Muhammad Shahmi Suhardi (Universiti Putra Malaysia) were also victims of the blazing sun. The same goes for the no-shows – Sayzwan Shah Jahan, Christopher Soosai (Maple Athletics Penang) and Muhammad Syahmi Suhardi (FTKLAA/Wipers) – as it is unknown why they did not turn up.

Of the seven competitors only Hazman Akmal Mohd Zalghani from UTP Athletics Club crossed the finish line.

A WhatsApp message, accompanied by pictures of the incident involving Ragu, made its rounds but competition chairman K. Nathan clarified that Ragu had been conscious throughout the incident, as reported by Twentytwo13.

Subramaniam was also disappointed with the low turnout in the event, hoping the organiser will find out why.

Former national hurlder Noraseela Khalid, who is part of Olympic Council of Malaysia athletes’ welfare commission, said what transpired at the Perak Stadium in Ipoh was a classic case of an organiser placing emphasis on the interest of others instead of the athletes.

“Why do we organise competitions? It is to bring out the best of the athletes.”

“Organisers always think what is easier for the volunteers or officials but not the athletes. They don’t provide a conducive environment for athletes to give their best, and then we hear people complaining we don’t have good athletes.”

Noraseela said she has never heard of a 10,000m race being held in the afternoon.

“And since the timetable was done earlier, the organiser could have checked the weather forecast way in advance and looked at the weather conditions in previous years as a guide of what to expect.

“I admit it is not easy to book stadiums but since the meet was planned in advance, they should have sorted out such details.”

She added organisers generally play an important role in ensuring athletes perform well during a meet.

“If you have races under the sun, you can cool the tracks so that when an athlete puts his or her knee on the track, it won’t hurt. Things like these may sound petty but it helps the athletes perform better.

“Athletes compete in meets to post good timings. Organisers should also look at the previous records and personal bests of our athletes and see when such timings were clocked … I’m sure none of them clocked their personal best at 3pm in Malaysia.”

Datuk A. Vaithilingam, a long-serving athletics official, said it was unusual for a 10,000m race to be held in the afternoon.

“The weather is now unbelievable, not just in Malaysia but across the globe. As such, these factors must be considered,” he said.

“I’m surprised this happened in Perak. After all, the Perak AAA president (Datuk Karim Ibrahim) is also the Malaysia Athletics Federation president, so I’m sure they should know better.”

Vaithilingam adviced future organisers to hold long distance events early in the morning or after 4.30pm.

Yesterday, the National Sports Institute issued guidelines and recommendations for those intending to conduct physical activities outdoors.

Among the recommendations include rescheduling events based on the weather, allow extra breaks or longer recovery periods and to either cancel or postpone events in the case of “unexpected or unreasonably hot weather”.