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Thursday, May 12, 2022

Billionaire backer for US-based Malaysian track star Shereen Vallabouy

 

Better Malaysia Foundation founder and chairman Vincent Tan presenting a mock cheque to Shereen’s parents Samson Vallabouy and Josephine Mary. On the left is BMF deputy chairman Sunita Mei-Lin Rajakumar.

KUALA LUMPUR: Berjaya Corporation Berhad founder Vincent Tan has rallied to the aid of US-based Malaysian athlete Shereen Vallabouy with a US$52,000 (RM228,000) financial backing as she pursues academic and sporting excellence.

His personal charity organisation, Better Malaysia Foundation (BMF), will support Shereen’s living expenses and other costs for the duration of her studies at Winona State University in Minnesota.

Shereen, 24, who is doing a degree in recreation and tourism, will receive US$2,600 (RM11,400) from this month until December next year.

She had obtained a 75% athletics scholarship from Winona State University and was reliant on her parents for the remaining expenditures.

The BMF aid followed an FMT report on Shereen’s rise in the highly-competitive US college athletics and her parents’ struggle to meet her living expenses in the US.

Shereen Vallabouy’s record-breaking win in the 400m in second-tier US college athletics in March thrust her into national spotlight. (Winona State University pic)

Shereen is the youngest daughter of Malaysia’s decorated middle-distance running couple Samson Vallabouy and Josephine Mary Singarayar from Ipoh, Perak.

Tan told a press conference today: “I am impressed with Shereen’s achievements and I admire her zeal to qualify on merit for the 400m in the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.

“With such passion in Shereen, it is disheartening that she and her parents had to go through much struggle to finance her living expenses while pursuing her studies in the US.

“I hope that this contribution will alleviate her financial worries so that she will be able to focus on her training and upcoming competitions.”

He hoped others in the private sector would step in to assist athletes who need funds to chase their sporting and academic ambitions.

Tan and BMF deputy chairman Sunita Mei-Lin Rajakumar jointly presented a mock cheque for US$52,000 to Samson and Josephine at Berjaya Times Square.

In expressing his family’s appreciation to Tan and BMF, Samson said the financial assistance was a godsend for the family and “we are relieved that Shereen will be able to continue her studies and sport without having to worry about money”.

Josephine, an Olympic Council of Malaysia Hall of Fame inductee and a former national elite coach, said BMF’s financial support was like a “miracle”.

She hoped it will generate excitement among young athletes who dream of sporting glory, academic distinction and a bright career for themselves.

Shereen said via video call that she was grateful to Tan and BMF for supporting her passion in athletics. “I will keep dreaming big and strive to make Malaysia proud”.

Shereen said she was also motivated by the support she was getting, including from her family and at the university where she enrolled in 2019 and initially studied physical education.

Her ambitions include being a finalist at the 2022 Commonwealth Games, winning a podium finish in the 400m at the 2023 Asian and Sea Games, and making the Paris Olympics on merit in the same event.

Shereen won the 400m in second-tier US college indoor athletics in March, setting a new championship mark and a Malaysian record of 53.79s.

While she drew glowing reviews in the US for her record-breaking season, the mood in Malaysia was initially muted until an FMT report on March 16, titled Malaysian track star rocks US, where’s the noise in Malaysia?, sparked mixed feelings.

The King and Queen led Malaysians to express their pride and joy at Shereen for bringing glory to Malaysia on the world stage.

Amid jubilation, Malaysians demanded a rethink of how the country should support promising talent instead of having middle-income parents bear the financial challenges.

Recently, Shereen bettered her personal best in the 400m with a time of 53.37s at an outdoor meeting in California and became the fastest 200m female runner in the country this year in a time of 23.52s at another meet.

Her rise as a track athlete is characterised by her journey as a raw talent with Ipoh-based Panthers Athletics Club under her mother and later trained by former national 400m champion K Jayabalan.

As a student of Bukit Jalil Sports School, Shereen went on to win the 400m and 4x400m bronze medal at the 2015 Sea Games and was part of the 2017 Sea Games 4x400m relay bronze medal winning team. - FMT

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