PETALING JAYA: Former Olympian and Malaysian middle-distance legend R Subramaniam passed away today at 83.
According to his daughter, Subathira, he died at about 2pm, an hour after he was warded at the Kajang Hospital following complaints of chest pain.
“He told me he had chest pain and I rushed him to the hospital. After an hour, the doctors told me he had passed on,” she told FMT, adding that details of the funeral will be announced later.
Subra, as he was fondly known, hailed from an estate in Puchong, Selangor. His rise in athletics and career as a senior prison officer was phenomenal, given his humble background.
He retired as a prison director in charge of the security for all the prisons in the country.
In the 1960s and early 1970s, he won the hearts of Malaysians, winning medal after medal in the middle-distance events in many local and international athletic meets.
Besides qualifying for the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo and the 1968 games in Mexico City, Subramaniam competed in the 1962 Commonwealth Games in Perth, Australia, and the subsequent one held in Kingston, Jamaica.
His feats in his 10-year athletics career included winning seven gold and six silver medals in the Asian and the SEAP Games, besides huge hauls during national meets.
During an interview with FMT last year, he said his most memorable milestone was the 1967 SEAP Games. After winning the 800m in record time, he had to run in the 5,000m just 30 minutes later.
“Despite that, I still came out first. I was the record holder for these events for many years, but they have all been broken now,” he said.
Subra also recalled the day when he had to face his rival from Burma (now Myanmar) in the 800m event, Jimmy Crampton, who had beaten him most of the time.
It was at the SEA Games in December 1977 and he was planning to retire after the meet. In a grand finish, Subra pipped Crampton at the finish to win gold and then called it a day.
Subathira described her father as a self-made man as he did not have anyone coaching him.
“His discipline and abstinence from alcohol and smoking made him go far,” she said.