Go back to schools, advises Namibian sprinter Fredericks

PETALING JAYA, Aug 3 — Frankie Fredericks is one of the rare breed in sports.

The Namibian, who was the first and only Olympic medalist for his country, overcame many adversaries in life — from being shunned from competitions and career threatening injuries to become one of the most decorated sprinter in the 100m and 200m events.

Despite having left the glitz and glamour of the sprint world, the 47-year-old is still involved in sports and had some advice for Malaysian athletes, who are on a slump after a poor outing at the recent SEA Games which saw them finish second from bottom.

“Athletics development needs to start at the school level, because an athlete’s base starts there. The Malaysian federation must find a way to attract the younger generation to the tracks again, if not we will lose them to many distractions like Playstation and Facebook.

“If a small country like Jamaica can produce world class athletes, why can’t a country such as this with all the facilities that it has? It’s a question of what aren’t you doing?” said the Olympic silver medalist, who was in town for the 128th International Olympic Committee (IOC) session.

Fredericks, who starred as a footballer before switching to the tracks, also battled abject poverty and used sports as a medium to rise above his family’s financial struggles.

The laid-back IOC member, a world champion in the 200m event in 1993 challenged young athletes who are in the same predicament to use speed as an escape route.

“School changed my life. Although I was poor, sports was my outlet to escape the struggles in life and athletes in Malaysia who are financially challenged can use sports and athletics to get out of poverty.

“They have to analyse where they want to be in 10 to 20 years,” continued the computer graduate, who also wants the Malaysian Amateur Athletic Federation to play their role in churning out talents.

“The federation must give athletes a reason to go out and compete. They need to look at the population, how the kids fare in youth championships, SEA Games, Asian Games and the internal meets,” added the 1998 Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games medalist, who praised the organisation of the IOC session.

“This is my third time back in the country and it’s been a pleasure. Everything has been smooth flowing here and the committee knows how to deliver a successful event. I have been stuck in meetings most of the time but my family are enjoying the sights in the city.”
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