In April this year, Johor’s Padhmaloshini Jayaseelan stormed to two gold medals at the Malaysian School Sports Meet (MSSM) in record times.
The 17-year-old lass clocked 2:15.68 in the 800m and was in imperious form in the 1,500m, shaving off close to 10 seconds off the old record with a time of 4:42.67s.
The SSTMI Bandar Penawar student was also picked as the best female athlete at the championships.
She is currently training under the supervision middle distance specialist and 2014 Malaysian Olympian of The Year Mohd Jironi Riduan, a double gold medallist at the Myanmar SEA Games in 2014.
While Jironi was making the nation proud at the international arena, Padhmaloshini was just starting to switch to middle distance from the long jump.
“I started with the long jump at the suggestion of my primary school coach Mr Jegan. I was not able to get past the district level (MSSD) competition,” said Padhmaloshini, who started her schooling at the SJK (Tamil) Masai.
She added that it was at the suggestion of another coach that she opted to take up running.
“When I started Form One, my teacher Mr Sashi prompted me to take up running as he felt that I would be better at distance running,” she added.
Padhmaloshini said he parents were very supportive of her decision to take up athletics seriously.
“I miss my parents and sisters but deciding to join the sports school is a sacrifice that had to be made,” said the third of four sisters.
While she broke the schools record earlier this year, Padhmaloshini still has a huge hurdle to match the national records.
Both the 800m and 1500m national records were set well before Padmaloshini was even born. Josephine Mary holds the 800m record of 2:07.44 set in 1986 while P Jayanthi the 1500m record of 4:23.49 set in 1993.
“I have given myself three to four years to improve my times and make the grade to represent Malaysia at the international level,” she added.
Padhmaloshini’s early foray into athletics was also helped by a little known athletics club based in Johor – Kelab Olahraga Integrasi (KOI).
KOI formed in 2014 by a group of teachers led by Ananda Raja have been working with the Johor Sports Council as well as the Johor Education Department to promote athletics among young Indian kids in Johor.
“They organise a lot of camps and competitions and I have been part of their activities. It helped shape my athletic career,” said Padhmaloshini.
KOI has been organising the Johor State Tamil Schools Athletics Championships from 2014. They also started the cross country championships since 2017.
“We are happy to note that athletes like Padhmaloshini have moved up the grade and would like to continue our support to the younger athletes,” said Ananda Raja, who is also the president of KOI.
He added that while the programme was started to help the Tamil Schools, they have had good support from all quarters including the likes of Nordin Mohamed Jadi (former national 200m and 400m runner), Hamberi Mahat (former national 400 runner and national coach) and Datuk M Ramachandran (multiple SEA Games gold medallist).
“Unfortunately we had to drop athletics meets from our programme due to lack of funding. But we are pushing ahead with the cross country events,” said Ananda.
More than half of the 70 tamil schools in Johor used to participate in the athletic competitions.
This year’s Cross Country Championships would be held on November 7 at the SJK (T) Ladang Merah in Tangkak, Johor.
“As we are just a club made out of teachers, it is not easy to get sponsorship or fundings. Furthermore we see a lot of potential in the longer distance, hence the decision to continue with the cross country event this year.
He added that despite the lack of funding, this year’s event would see schools from Melaka and Negri Sembilan participating.
“Looking at the success of our past programmes, schools from the two states have requested to be included. There are 152 tamil schools in the three states and we hope to attract at least half of them for the cross country,” said Ananda.