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Patriots are made, not born

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Lee Chong Wei’s Olympian efforts and achievements have made him a national hero. But there are also many unsung heroes in our midst – those who have sacrificed their freedom and personal comforts in the struggle to uphold justice, peace and democracy in the country, observes Rakyat Jelata.

Lee Chong Wei – Photograph: Wikipedia

Malaysia finally achieved a silver medal on 5 August 2012, when until then Malaysia’s Olympic contingent had nothing to show for their efforts.

Virtually all hope of bringing something home hung on our only bright star, Lee Chong Wei, who is still a top level international badminton player, second only to China’s Lin Dan who managed to grasp gold.
It was a fast and furious contest which was so evenly matched and so close that the gold was only two points away from Malaysia’s grasp. But as fate, would have it, Lin Dan overtook Chong Wei in those last crucial seconds to grab Olympic gold. Chong Wei, was understandably crushed by this defeat, as were the hopes of many Malaysians, including those present in the stadium to cheer and support our competitors.
But an Olympic silver medal, a second and perhaps last one for Chong Wei, cannot be seen as a defeat. It is a victory, both personal and national, for Chong Wei and Malaysia. It is well deserved and should be lauded.
From an ordinary spectator’s viewpoint, I believe that Chong Wei pushed himself to the limits despite a previous injury still not being completely healed. The supports were still around his calf while he played. You could see him grimace, possibly from pain, from straining an already injured leg. Yet, he remained admirably calm and composed for the whole competition.
Why did Chong Wei launch on such heroism when he could easily have opted out on grounds of being unfit to play? Arguably, there was a cash prize to be had – the gold bar he had himself advertised for the government a few days before leaving for the London Olympics. Was Chong Wei desperate to win that? Not to my knowledge. He is said to be comfortably well off. Chong Wei had also signed up to join the Malaysian armed forces, just before he left for London.
Still, whatever his motive, he persevered in ensuring a medal for Malaysia. Rightly, he was aiming for gold, and tried his best to win it. But even though he had to take silver instead, that aspiration for a medal has been fulfilled. Yet, what is more significant than this win is the toil and sacrifice that Chong Wei put into what could be his last Olympic appearance for Malaysia. His efforts have proven that Malaysians of any ethnic background, creed or colour can be patriots and should be acknowledged as such.
It is disappointing that Prime Minister Najib seemed to show complete apathy towards our one real Olympic victory, as did the mainstream media. Hopefully, Pakatan Rakyat leaders will better appreciate such truly patriotic acts and efforts exhibited, not only by Malaysian sportsmen and women but by all who are and have sacrificed much to make Malaysia stand tall in the international community.

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Amongst these are, those who have sacrificed their own reputations, freedom, comfortable jobs, status, wealth and prestige trying to protect the values of justice, peace and democracy in the country. Those falsely charged with crimes they did not commit, those courageous enough to be whistle-blowers who are being prosecuted for their honesty, those imprisoned for their political beliefs and those threatened for speaking out against injustice. There are many more heroes amongst us, and in recent months, Malaysians have proven to themselves that they can be heroes, in their own right. The challenges continually faced make us realise the meaning of patriotism.

Thus, we are all patriots, regardless of creed, ethnicity, gender, economic status or colour. This is something for all Malaysians to bear in mind in the run up to the “Merdeka” Day celebrations and the 13th General Elections. We have come a long way and have much to celebrate, but must never be satisfied with the nostalgia of past achievements, forgetting the effort, struggle and sacrifice that must be put in to make anything worth doing, a success.
Rakyat Jelata is the pseudonym of an occasional contributor to TA Online

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