Coach dreams of Malaysian world weightlifting champ
Published on: Saturday, February 08, 2020
By: Bernama
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File photo from Bernama.
BUKIT MERTAJAM: M. Thanabalasingam’s face always lights up whenever he talks about weightlifting. His dream is to create a world champion in weightlifting for Malaysia.

Thanabalasingam, 47, who is a part-time weightlifting coach at the National Sports Council (NSC) in Penang, said due to misconceptions about the sport, it is not as popular as badminton or football in this country. And, in Malaysia weightlifting has the least number of athletes participating in it.

He said weightlifting is often mistaken for bodybuilding and that parents are reluctant to let their children take it up thinking they may become too muscular or in the case of girls, look masculine.

“In fact, there are people who think that weightlifting can change a person’s body structure and even cause him/her to become shorter, which is absurd. 

“The truth is, weightlifters generally have a small frame which makes it easier for them to lift weights. Their (small) size is due to genetics and certainly not caused by lifting weights,” he told Bernama, adding that Malaysia can produce a world champion if its weightlifters undergo intensive training and strictly adhere to a healthy and balanced diet.

Thanabalasingam himself was inspired by his late elder brother M. Saundarajan to take up weightlifting. Saundarajan, who was a policeman, used to train on his own and had, on his own ticket, participated in many tournaments and he even took home the silver medal at the national-level weightlifting championship in 1989.

Thanabalasingam said his late grandfather Suphayapol was also actively involved in weightlifting.

“When I was young, I used to go for training in weightlifting but since there were no competitions for children and teenagers then, I switched to karate,” he said.

Then in 1999, Thanabalasingam ran into a close friend of his late brother who encouraged him to return to weightlifting and train to become a coach.

Thanabalasingam trained under Ng Chau Seng, a four-time gold medal winner at the World Masters Weightlifting Championship, for three years before joining Penang NSC in 2002 as a part-time coach.

The father-of-three has also been training his children in weightlifting since young. His eldest son T. Thirilohgan, 21, however, has given up the sport to focus on his career as an engineer.

His daughters Logassree, 17, and Thurgashree, 13, have been undergoing training in weightlifting since they were five and three years old respectively and have represented Penang at various competitions.

At the 2016 Sukma Games in Sarawak, Logassree grabbed the gold medal in the clean and jerk category. She won the bronze medal in the same category at the 2018 Sukma Games in Perak.

Logassree, who sat for the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia examination last year, also participated in the Youth Commonwealth Games in 2016 and Singapore World Championship in 2019 and is currently training for the 2020 Sukma Games in Johor.

Thanabalasingam said his wife S. Kali, 40, is fully supportive of their daughters’ involvement in weightlifting and takes care of their diet.

According to Thanabalasingam, aspiring weightlifters can grow stronger and hardier if they undergo consistent and proper training. 

He applies the training techniques used in Russia and Bulgaria that focus on building the physical strength of the athlete.

“When compared to other countries, Russia and Bulgaria’s training in weightlifting is the toughest,” he noted, adding that the use of correct techniques will prevent trainees from injuring themselves.

“The training regimen for weightlifters is indeed tough but they have to undergo tough training so that their bodies can adjust to it. They have to do a lot of physical exercises before they are trained to lift weights,” he explained. 

Thanabalasingam, meanwhile, also provides physical and mental training to youths in Penang to achieve feats of strength.

In July 2019, three youths trained by him created new records which have entered the Malaysia Book of Records.

G. Omprekash, 24, succeeded in pulling a vehicle with his little finger over a distance of 86.5 metres and lifting a 91-kilogramme weight using only two fingers, both record-breaking feats.

Boo Chai Yee, 24, and Seah Zhang Yu, 23 — who were also trained by Thanabalasingam — also achieved record-breaking feats when Boo became the first Malaysian to perform the highest number of burpees (33) in one minute; Seah completed a 400-metre frog jump event in six minutes and 53 seconds, the fastest for a Malaysian.

“Their feats prove that with proper training, nothing is impossible,” said Thanabalasingam, adding that his daughters too have performed record-breaking feats.

When Logassree was five years old in 2007, she completed a 5.1-km run within 31 minutes. Thurgashree performed 1,111 sit-ups within 31 minutes when she was three years old.

“To achieve these feats, my daughters underwent intensive training for eight months,” he added. – Bernama 


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