They Were Mocked For Wanting To Play For M'sia In France. They Answer By Winning 6 Medals
Last Sunday, 8 May, a karate team of nine Malaysian Indians did exactly what many had told them they couldn't: Win the country's first gold medal at the International Open Karate Tournament in France
The team of mostly young women and men faced several issues including discrimination and financial hardships prior to travelling to France for the tournament. And while their morale was down, the team did not let empty promises of support deter them from bringing glory to Malaysia on the international stage.
The private Malaysian team, representing the International Okinawan Shorin-Ryu Sei-bu-kan Karate-Do Association of Malaysia (IOSSKAM), came back with one gold, three silver, and two bronze medals.
Along with the six medals in total, the team also won two trophies.
The global tournament was held in the city of Lyon, which saw, besides France, 12 countries taking part including karate heavyweights such as Japan and Italy.
Leading the team was IOSSKAM president, 26-year-old Minalochuni Pathmanathan, who wants to break the gendered stereotype that youngsters and women cannot lead, according to the association's spokesperson Thivashini Krish Dhev Nair. Thivashini spoke to this SAYS writer at length for this story.
According to Minalochuni, this is the first-ever gold in a world karate championship for Malaysia.
While IOSSKAM is registered with the Ministry of Youth and Sports, the association was solely responsible for the private delegation that went to France.
Among the nine members, it was 17-year-old Nivashini Sivaraman who bagged the gold in the Kata 15-17 female junior category
While Nivashini brought home the sole gold, 18-year-old Thavanishwary Muniandy won silver in the Kata 18-34 female junior category and bronze in the Kumite 18-34 female junior category.
16-year-old Praveen Elancheran Dharmalingam, who is the youngest male member of the private karate team, bagged the second silver for Malaysia in the Kumite 15-17 male 70kg and above category.
The third silver was won by 21-year-old Paveedra Devi V Ganesh, Nivashini, and Thavanishwary in the Rotational Team Kumite female open category. The remaining bronze was won by 18-year-old Shachiidanantha Guberan Pathmanathan, 22-year-old Mugeshvaran Ganesh, Praveen, and 31-year-old Prakash Muhammad Arjuna in the Rotational Team Kumite male open category.
While the team made a name for Malaysia on the international stage, there has been no official acknowledgement or announcement of any recognition for their achievements from the Youth and Sports Ministry
The team members also faced discrimination due to most of them being women and humiliation for their young age while they were trying to get sponsorships to travel to France.
"We had a very hard time trying to get sponsorships and attention from the relevant organisations and people. In the end, we were left hanging on empty promises. There were a lot of tears, blood, and sweat involved in making this happen," Thivashini shared with this SAYS writer earlier today, 12 May.
According to her, those who promised financial support ghosted them and mocked them with statements that cast aspersions on their hard work because they are young.
"I don't want to disclose anyone's name but the statement that was used against us was like, 'oh, y'all are a bunch of youngsters and led by a woman. How are you all going to run the show,'" Thivashini said.
While the team, made up of entirely Malaysian Indians, did not face any racial discrimination, their attempts to raise the funds — a total of RM62,271 — were "super depressing and stressful", Thivashini shared
"We were all sleep-deprived and were super exhausted in the whole process," she added.
Thivashini shared that the helplessness eventually got to them and the team members cried a lot because of the financial hardships they faced. In the end, they only received RM18,000 in funds.
Among those who donated was the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC), which is part of the ruling Barisan National (BN) coalition, that gave RM10,000. The rest was given by local singer Arvind Raj and the public.
Most of the expenses were borne by us personally, and we are still looking for RM45,000 to clear off debts.
In fact, the team was so short of funds that they did not have enough to pay for their flight tickets.
This is when a local travel agency called Holara holidays stepped in. It paid in advance for the flights under a 'fly first, pay later' offer after local airlines turned them down saying they were facing hard times.
The travel agency booked the tickets for the team to fly on Turkish Airlines.
Nevertheless, the karate team, after having showcased their talent, is high on morale and hopes to bring further glory to the country
According to Thivashini, they also expect that the feat they have achieved in France will give them the opportunity to help fund their education by requesting sports scholarships from their universities.