Dato’ M. Rajamani
“The Queen of the Tracks”
Sport: Athletics (Track & Field)
Year Inducted: 2004
Born into a conservative rural environment in the small town of Tapah in 1943, Mailvaganam Rajamani overcame traditional boundaries for women participating in sport and rose to become the greatest track star that Malaysia has produced. In 4 short years from 1964 – 68, Rajamani won 7 gold medals in 2 SEAP Games (most of them in record times), 1 Asian Games gold (also in record time), became an Olympian and won the coveted National Sportswoman of the Year Award two years running in 1966 and 1967.
As a primary school girl in Tapah and a secondary school girl in Ipoh, Rajamani was already showing early signs of promise. She progressed very quickly with encouragement from her father and guidance from her coach R. Suppiah.
In 1964, at the age of 20, she burst into the national scene with sensational victories in the 200m, 400m and 800m all in record times at the MAAU National Championships. Her performances earned her a ticket to the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games for the 400m and 800m.
The following year, in the 1965 SEAP Games in Kuala Lumpur, Rajamani established herself as the region’s track queen when she won the 200m, 400m and 800m gold medals, all in record times. She also ran a superb 4 x 100m leg to help the Malaysian quartet to another gold medal – also in record time.
In the next SEAP Games in 1967, in Bangkok, she almost repeated her 4 gold medal haul. She won the 400m and 800m and helped the 4 x 100m team to secure a gold with a new Games record. In the 200m, however, she had to settle for a silver. But for her performance she was voted the SEAP Games Queen of the Track.
Sandwiched between Rajamani’s exploits in the 1965 and 1967 SEAP Games was the 1966 Asian Games in Bangkok, where she outran the best in Asia and emerged with the 400m gold medal and a new Games record of 56.3 sec. With this win she became the first Malaysian female athlete to strike gold at the Asian Games in any sport!
Her epoch making efforts in the 1966 Asian Games and the 1967 SEAP Games earned her the National Sportswoman of the Year Awards for 1966 and 1967. In 1968, just 24 years old and at the peak of her career, fate struck a cruel blow to end her athletic exploits prematurely. While training with two of her friends, with the Olympic Games in mind, they were struck by lightning. It killed her friend P.N. Govindan and left Rajamani in coma for 18 hours. She survived but her nervous system was in tatters and she suffered a temporary loss of memory.
Try as she did, Rajamani could not regain her form. She missed out on the Olympic Games and announced her retirement.
She then turned to coaching attended a specialist coaching course at the Institute of Physical Culture in Kiev, Russia. She assisted especially school girls and Marina Chin, another of the nation’s athletic icons, is seen as one of her protégés.
1964 - MAAU National Championships (National Records: 200m, 400m, 800m), Tokyo Olympic Games (Selected for 400m and 800m)
1965 - SEAP Games, Kuala Lumpur (4 gold medals: 200m, 400m, 800m 4 x 100m – all Games Records)
1966 - Asian Games, Bangkok (Gold: 400m (record), Bronze: 4 x 100m)
1967 - SEAP Games, Bangkok (3 gold’s: 40m, 800m, 4 x 100m, 1 silver: 200m)
Awards - Sportswoman of the Year 1966, 1967
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