American official wants to leave legacy in Malaysian athletics

Kuala Lumpur: Life has been hard for American athletics coach Dwayne Miller, who has had to mourn the passing of two family members and being 13,000 kilometres away from his family.

The global Covid-19 pandemic and the on-going travel ban haven’t made life any easier for the 55-year-old, who took over as Malaysian Athletics Federation (MAF) technical director last October.

He lost his uncle a week before he flew to Malaysia to take up the post while his grandmother died in May. Now, his grandfather is ill.

Miller’s wife Yolanda and family were supposed visit him here earlier this year, but the Covid-19 pandemic and worldwide travel restrictions put paid to their plans, thus making him miss his family even more.

Instead of wallowing in self-pity though, these setbacks have only strengthened his resolve to leave a legacy in Malaysian athletics.

Miller, who was named ‘Nike Coach of the Year’ by USA Track and Field in 2008, plans to produce Malaysian track and field athletes who are able to be contenders at world-class events.

These are lofty targets indeed, but Miller’s not the type to shy away from a challenge.

“I hope to stay a long time here because I really want to leave a mark here. Malaysia has a lot of talents and to see them competing in the Olympics, World Championships and Asian Championships will mean a lot for the country.

 “These athletes are young, so I always tell them that this is their opportunity to set the benchmark for the next generation. That’s what I am trying to do, set the next generation up to hopefully make it to the Olympics, be it in the individual or relay events.

 “We need to start somewhere and someone has to start it. And I intend to be the guy to light the flame that will shine a path for Malaysian athletes to make their presence felt on the international stage and become a force to be reckoned with in world athletics,” he told Bernama.

Miller certainly has the credentials. After all, he did help US sprinter LaShawn Merritt bag two gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics in the 400m and 4x400m (Olympic record) events and has over 30 years of experience in coaching sprinters and jumpers. 

He had also coached LaTasha Colander Clark, the 2000 Sydney Olympics gold medallist in 4x400m, and Rachelle Boone-Smith (2005 World Championship 200m silver medallist). He also coached in Saudi Arabia from 2013 to 2015 and Qatar from 2015 to 2017 before returning to the United States until 2019.

For now though, Miller, whose favourite local delicacy is ‘roti telur’, intends to whip his charges back into shape since they only returned to training about six weeks ago after the Movement Control Order (MCO) was eased.

He hopes to get his sprinters, many of whom have been performing way below their best in the last few years, up and running again so that he can push them to get closer to the 10.10-second mark, if not the flat 10-second target.