Indeed a significant loss for our nation.
A well-respected former Olympian Sabapathy Sinnayah, breathed his last yesterday (14th December 2022). He was 75 years old. The source claims that the athlete’s demise came after complications from dementia, which he was previously diagnosed with three years ago.
Sabapathy was a remarkably skilled sprinter in the 1970s who subsequently rose to prominence as a booster of youth development and a guardian of the welfare of national athletes.
Being a late bloomer in athletics, Sabapathy was introduced to the sport by the late Mubarak Ahmad, the father of the late national hurdler Ishtiaq Mubarak. After completing school, Saba stayed with the Mubarak family and accompanied Ishtiaq for training sessions at the Police Depot in Selangor. He resumed his athletics career with the Jets Athletics Club before going on to represent Selangor and Malaysia in sprint events.
He made his athletic debut for the nation at the 1970 Bangkok Asian Games as a member of the 4 X 400m relay squad, but although the team won the bronze, he did not run as he was relegated to a reserve.
Then in the Kuala Lumpur 1971 Seap Games, he had the misfortune of pulling a muscle in the 100m race and had to withdraw from the relay squad. It was only at the 1973 Singapore Seap Games that Sabapathy finally tasted glory when the 4 X 400m quartet comprising P.L.B. S. Payadesa, Harun Rashid, Hassan Omar and himself won the gold medal in 3:15.4. Sabapathy also won a silver in the 200m clocking 22.3 to finish behind Thailand’s A. Ratanpol (21.6).
At the 1975 Bangkok Seap, Sabapathy won two bronze medals – in the 4 X 200m running with Peyadesa, Ramli Ahmad and Zainuddin Wahab in a time of 1:26.5 and the 4 X 400m (Marariah Naidu, Peyadesa, Muthiah Dattaya and Sabapathy). The 4 X 200m was won by the Thai quartet of Boontud Somsakdi, Suchart Jaesuraparp, Ratanapol and Paratanavong Sayun in 1:25.0 while Singapore’s quartet of C. Kunalan, Quah Kim Tiong and Yeo Kian Chye won silver (1.25.9). In the 4 X 400m it was Singapore who won the gold.
For the 1972 Munich Olympics, Sabapathy was trained in the US and Germany with his relay mates Peyadesa, Hassan and T. Krishnan who had a final ranking of sixth for a time of 3:13.51.
After his athletic career, Sabapathy was the Federal Territory coach from 1985-1996, the Selangor Sports Council development coach from 1997 to 2006 and the Federal Territory chief coach for a year with the Sukan Teras programme.
Former national long-distance champion S Sathasivam remarked that Sabapathy epitomized the amateur spirit in terms of developing future athletes and founded the Falcon Athletics Club in 2010 to train talented budding athletes in Lobak for free.
Ten years ago, S Kumari Devi trained with Sabapathy to become a sprinter. She says, “He made running my true passion. My life was changed by the thrill of his coaching and learning new techniques for raising me to new heights.”
In 2019, this dedicated sportsman was honoured with the Paulian of Distinction Award at the St Paul’s Institution’s (SPI) Co-Curricular Excellence Awards as a recognition for his involvement as an athlete and coach at the oldest school in Negeri Seremban.
“Your contribution will be remembered for a long time coach.”