* Multiple former SEA Games gold medallist scores a first for women

* ‘My appointment is an honour for me and women in the country

* Zaiton, the 1982 National Sportswoman of the Year, still holds national heptathlon after 34 years

The newcomers may not know Datuk Zaiton Othman – but the darling of Malaysian athletics in the 1980s – will take a slice of Malaysian sports history after being appointed as the country’s new Sports Commissioner.

Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin Abu Bakar announced Zaiton’s appointment via a statement on Tuesday, Her appointment takes effect from February. The 55-year-old Penang-born Zaiton replaces Ahmad Shapawi Ismail, who is now the new National Sports Council (NSC) director-general – taking over from Datuk Zolkeples Embong.

Many have hailed Zaiton’s appointment. She is not only the first woman but is also the first former athlete to hold the post of Sports Commissioner – giving sports a shot in the arm. More importantly Zaiton has proven that “dedication and commitment” will bring in due rewards.

And the 1982 National Sportswoman comes with strong credentials – making her a perfect choice to keep an eye on sports in the country, especially when sports is a booming industry in the country.

Zaiton holds a Physical Education degree from University Pertanian Malaysia (UPM), and Master’s degree in Applied Sports Pyschology from San Diego State University, United States.

On the track she was Malaysia’s darling and still holds the national record of 5,175 points in heptathlon set at the 1981 SEA Games in Manila – something Zaiton can be proud of that no one has been able to break the long standing record of 34 years. And Manila also holds special memories for the mother of an 11-year-old daughter for winning three gold medals.

“I am honoured to be appointed to the post…it is also an honour to women. The post comes with heavy responsibilities. I have to learn more on the rapid development of sports in the country plus the various (Sports) Acts to get a grasp of my new appointment,” said Zaiton who was the toast of Malaysia at the 1981 SEA Games in Manila.

That was the year when she won three gold medals – heptathlon, 4x100m and 4x400m – all with record breaking feats. The achievements were not a surprise, especially when she made her SEA Games debut in 1979 in Jakarta and returned home with a gold medal in the 4x400m relay and a silver in the women’s javelin.

For her contributions to athletics, Zaiton was awarded the International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF) certificate of merit in 1988. Among others, Zaiton was appointed the chef de mission to the 4th World Women Islamic Games in Teheran in 2005 and she was also the deputy chef de mission to the 2007 SEA Games in Bangkok.

She has string of other awards in recognition of her contributions to the sports, including the IOC Achievement Diploma (2010) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Women and Sport Award for Asia (2012) apart from being inducted into the Olympic Council of Malaysia Hall of Fame.

At state level Zaiton won the Penang Sportswoman four times – in 1981, 1982, 1983 and 1989.

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