Former national 400m runner Datuk Victor Asirvatham, fondly known as Asir, is a man who likes to defy odds. He started running in school, when he was chased. At one point, he even caught a school sprinter who had stolen his pencil box. He has not stopped running – for almost 70 years.
The octogenarian who took part in four Olympic Games has no intention of slowing down. He made his debut in Tokyo 1964 and was also in Munich 1972. Asir did not win any medal but always left with his head held high, making the country proud.
In 1960, Asir took part in the Olympic trials in Padang Ipoh and faced runners like Tan Sri Dr. M. Jegathesan. He said, “I use the same technique until today, and it has worked wonders.”
That technique earned him 14 gold medals in six SEAP (now SEA) Games from 1961 to 1973 in what can be described as a very decorated career. But the Olympics were a different ball game. Asir was not up to mark to make it to Rome as he could not run barefooted and had to wear spikes, which slowed him down.
“After that, I decided to train with spikes, and my timing got better.” A decorated career came to an end in 1974 when he made his last run in the Asian Games in Tehran. Asked about his most unforgettable tournament, Asir said the 1962 Asian Games in Jakarta was something he would always remember, even though he finished fourth in the final.
“Back then, there was only a 40-minute break between runs. I was exhausted by then and I refused to run, but the team manager pushed me to run in the final.”
“In the final, I faced athletes like India’s Milkha Singh, Daljit Singh, and Makhan Singh. That is why I decided to take part in the Masters’ Athletics Games – whether at World or Asian level,” said Asir, who had been frustrated by the movement control order (MCO), which stopped him from training.
“Now that we are in a recovery phase of the MCO, I can run at the sports complex again. I may have a crazy dream (of running at the World Games in 20 years), but I will fulfill it,” said Asir, who wants to be an example to people on how to enjoy life and stay healthy at all times.