Being thrown in at the deep end has never been something I have worried about, but it’s always easier to cope with it if you are well practised at the basics. In music I was still something of a novice but I had been working very hard at it since arriving in Malaya with the expert help of my fellow band members especially Taffy Helps, Jim Bowman and David Clayton to whom I am eternally grateful. Sergeant Major Bing Stocks, who was in charge of the dance band had given me a lot of encouragement and said I had made good progress. In fact he put me to the test when the principal drummer and percussionist, O’Brien, fell off his bike and broke his wrist. I now had to take his place and play in the full dance band for the Sultan’s Ball at the Ipoh Club. Up to this point, I had only played in the sextet of the dance band when they performed in public at lesser functions but this one was a high profile function and I did not want to let my band colleagues down. I was very nervous but Sergeant Major Stocks put me at ease. All went well and from then on I was the principal percussionist of the band.
I still competed in all the sport I could and was invited to many sports events around Malaya. The regiment gave me permission to compete in them and Suppiah was always by my side to correct any mistakes I was making as well as to encourage and support me. The decathlon in Penang soon came up, but I learned a lesson in what happens if you ignore the advice of an experienced coach like Suppiah. He told me how to run the 100m, but I did my own thing and blew up, got cramp and limped in to the finish behind Asian decathlon champion Cyril Pereira. After treatment, I was advised to pull out to prevent further damage to my leg. I was determined to carry on, however, as I thought I could win it the next day. Suppiah’s Indian friend massaged my leg that evening and strapped it. I won all my events the next day and was narrowly beaten into second place by thirteen points.
At the Commonwealth Forces Championships in Malacca, I did come up against some very tough opposition. All my rivals had been reading about me in the National newspapers, so had made me their number one target. I didn’t do myself any favours, as I made predictions to journalists that I would win certain events. I persisted in doing this against regimental advice. I was determined to beat the Aussies who had always been the best up to then. To prevent me from antagonising the rivals, the regiment told me to stop talking to the press and refer them to the regiment for comment.
At the Commonwealth Forces Championship, the stadium was jam-packed. The National Press, reporting on all three days, was predicting other athletes to win individual events and there were some very good athletes taking part. As there was no decathlon at this competition, I was entering separate individual events that make up the decathlon. My first event was the 100m heats. I had two heats to run before the final. The Jamaican champion sprinter, Webb, was the overall favourite tipped to win. We both got good starts, but I overtook him and won the race. I went on to win long jump and broke the record with 7.12m. I won the shot put, the high jump and came second in the triple jump (beaten in this by the New Zealander Theo Marimer, who later got a bronze at the Commonwealth Games). I broke four Commonwealth Forces records at that meeting.
I got selected to play both football and hockey for Perak State and also as opening fast bowler for Perak State in the Inter- State Cricket Championships. Throughout all this, the regiment gave me 100 percent backing and I met regularly with my officers to report about my training, my needs for travel warrants and accommodation in other military camps. All this help made me determined to do well the following year and to prepare seriously and with more urgency, especially in my weaker field events. At this time Malaysia was being formed as an amalgamation of Malaya, Singapore, Borneo and the other islands, so it would be the Malaysian Championships. It would be nice if I could do well at this, the First Malaysian Games.
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