Former 6-Time National Squash Champion Now Works As A Cleaner To Make Ends Meet

"This is about survival, and I will do whatever it takes to make a living," said Kenneth Low Ewe Loong.

Cover image via FMT

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Meet Kenneth Low Ewe Loong.

He was a six-time national squash champion from 1995 to 1997, bringing glory and recognition to Malaysia internationally.

Kenneth during his heyday.

Image via FMT (YouTube)

However, the former Malaysian sporting star is now facing financial problems, battling severe health issues, and working as a cleaner to make ends meet

The 47-year-old is suspected to be experiencing the lingering effects of a stroke, which have led to impaired coordination, diminished motor skills, cognitive disabilities, and short-term memory dysfunction. Unfortunately, due to financial constraints, he has been unable to undergo the necessary tests to assess the extent of brain damage caused by the stroke, according to a report in Free Malaysia Today.

Low, who once represented Malaysia in the world arena, now spends his days cleaning floors, mirrors, doors, tables, and chairs at his place of employment. Just a couple of years ago, he could be found mopping floors, wiping mirrors, and tidying elevators alongside foreign workers at condominiums.

Currently working at the Best Archery Centre in Glo Damansara for over a month, Low continues to display a positive attitude towards life and refuses to give up despite the challenging circumstances he faces.

"It's a matter of survival, and I will do whatever it takes to earn a living. I can't complain as there are many people who don't have jobs. At least I have a job and I am not a burden to anyone," he told the portal.

Low's gratitude also extends towards the archery centre's owner cum coach, Jeffrey Kok, who hired him as an archery coach despite the former squash champion having no prior experience in that sport.

"The only happiness I have is being with good-hearted people," Low said.

Image via Harian Metro

According to Kok, he hired Low as he needed urgent help

"I didn't employ him out of pity," Kok said, adding, "We look to train people with no archery experience as coaches because it is something we can teach from zero."

However, Kok has been surprised by the severity of Low's disability, and in order to help Low in his journey towards recovery and rebuilding his life, Kok now assigns menial tasks for Low.

"When you talk to him, he's normal. But when we put him to the task, we were shocked that he was unable to do basic day-to-day things and lacked coordination skills. A simple thing like stringing a bow is challenging for him, but he will overcome it as his strength is starting from scratch to reach the top," Kok said.

"It's really hard to have been at the pinnacle, and then have to start all over again, and I admire him for that. He is humble enough to keep trying and I applaud him for being a survivor," he added.

The archery centre plans to gradually help Low transition into a role as a range assistant for students.

"Right now, he is still an observer and we will give him room to do what he is able to do," Kok said.

Low admits that his current monthly salary of RM1,500 is not something to be excited about, but for him, it is enough as he is able to eat and do small things that make him happy.

Jeffrey Kok (left) with Low.

Image via FMT

Low's life took a downturn when he suffered a stroke about two years ago, leaving him without support from family or friends

Low faced tough times with his family as his father passed away from a stroke, and his older brother also suffered from the same condition. With his mother in her 70s, she couldn't do much to help.

He found himself alone, struggling financially, and battling depression.

Adding to his challenges, his marriage had already fallen apart before the stroke, and he hasn't seen his son since he was five years old. Now 11, his son, Mohamed Nico, resides with his mother in Sabah.

"My sadness will disappear if I have him beside me, and it will all be so different," said Low.

Unfortunately, the days of Low's triumphs, when he contributed to Malaysian squash's international glory, have become a faded memory

And it doesn't help that the memories captured in photographs of his playing days have slipped through the grasp of time, leaving Low with none to hold on to as his medals are with his mother in Puchong.

According to the report in Free Malaysia Today, Low's memories have faded to the extent that he stared blankly when he was reminded it was his victory in the deciding game in 2000 that ended Pakistan's stranglehold on the Asian team squash championships since the event's inception in 1981.

Low (second from right), pictured here with his Malaysian teammates at the 1993 Singapore SEA Games, cannot remember the number of times he represented Malaysia.

Image via FMT

Currently, Low gets financial assistance from the National Athletes Welfare Foundation (YAKEB) and the Squash Racquets Association of Malaysia (SRAM) after they became aware of his condition

YAKEB provides RM300 a month, and it was only recently, thanks to the efforts of Loo Kum Zee, a former national high jumper, and YAKEB's chairperson Noorul Ariffin, that Low became aware of the foundation's aid. SRAM president Gerard Monteiro also made a contribution of RM20,000 to help Low.

Gerard, who used to play against Low in national-level tournaments in the 1980s, told New Straits Times that a few other players from the 1980s got together to give Low a substantial amount of money.

Datuk Noorul Ariffin Abdul Majeed (fourth from right) and a team from YAKEB with Low (third from right).

Image via New Straits Times

Low's struggles expose Malaysia's inadequate financial support for retired athletes, echoing the plight of Koh Lee Peng, a once revered Paralympic athlete now left to fend for herself on the streets:

Low and Koh are not the only ones.

There are a number of other para-athletes who now live a life of neglect despite having brought glory and gold to Malaysia:

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