From police fingerprint examiner to athletics official, Vegiyathuman shares life after sports

One could sense fire in his voice when he spoke about the athletics scene in Kuala Lumpur.

Datuk S. Vegiyathuman even took stakeholders to task for the lack of playing space, especially field events, in the nation’s capital.

But beyond that, Vegiyathuman did not expect his 40-over years in sports would eventually end last month. He did not contest for the president’s post at the FTKLAA biennial general meeting last month and was succeeded by former middle-distance runner Datuk Seri V. Pulainthiran.

“My mind is still strong but my body is not strong enough to take the responsibility,” admitted Vegiyathuman who is now based at a premium-assisted living facility in Petaling Jaya.

“I’m still very sad about it. But if I cannot contribute, then it’s best I leave,” said Vegiyathuman, who was also a long-serving general secretary of the city athletics association (1985-2016).

“This place is premium and nice but nothing beats home. My family was against the idea of me being here but I didn’t want to be a burden to any of them. Also, we couldn’t secure a maid due to the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown,” he added.

Vegiyathuman has been wheelchair-bound due to a spinal cord injury. He has been living in the facility since Aug 1, four days before he turned 79.

Born on Aug 5, 1941 in Bukit Mertajam, Vegiyathuman started his career as a fingerprint examiner for the police in Bukit Aman.

“I came to Kuala Lumpur in the early 60s. I was a civilian working in Bukit Aman. My duty was to certify the fingerprints of an arrested person that were sent to the headquarters and to check if the person had a criminal record.

“Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy the job as I was more interested in athletics and was quite active in it. My break came when I was handpicked by the organiser of the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur to be the venue manager. I chose optional retirement.

“Sports will always be my passion,” he added.

Married to Anathaletchumy and blessed with three sons, Vegiyathuman admitted there are numerous fond memories of his time in athletics.

Asked what he remembered the most, Vegiyathuman quickly replied: “There’s just so many (fond memories), honestly.”

“My wish was to popularise the running industry in Malaysia. That was my target. I worked towards it and achieved it.”

Athletics events remained popular for decades in the city and Vegiyathuman was involved in almost all the major events – from Malay Mail’s Big Walk, the Standard Chartered Marathon to even Twentytwo13‘s ‘Sila Lari, Jangan Duduk Fun Run‘ in 2018.

“I remember joining forces with several others to push for the inter-bank movement years ago. The inter-bank athletics competition became the number one athletic meet in the country and produced the bulk of national athletes. It also opened job opportunities for these athletes.”

But Vegiyathuman also expressed his disappointment over certain matters in the industry.

“Out of nowhere, we saw so many event managers appear. It’s a sore point as 50 per cent of them reached out to FTKLAA for sanction but the other 50 per cent ignored us.

“There are many implications, including legal issues as it is a requirement under the Sports Development Act for sports events to get the approval of the state or national body.”

Timings or records set at unsanctioned meets are not recognised.

He wished to see athletics events organised in accordance to the Malaysia Athletics Federation’s requirement.

“And nobody will stop you from organising events as long as you follow the rules.”

Vegiyathuman also spoke about development, adding it did not get the attention it deserves.

“Parents play an important role in grassroots athletics and the schools must also play their part.”

And as for the lack of playing space, Vegiyathuman said: “Authorities in Kuala Lumpur claim there are many facilities. This is not true. You can’t even throw a discus in the city. The only place to have throwing events is at the National Sports Council (in Bukit Jalil) but that’s only for its athletes and not any Tom, Dick and Harry.

“We don’t have space for field events and that’s a fact.”

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