I think the following have strong cases:
Lim Keng Liat
Probably Malaysia’s most successful swimmer ever:
- He was the first Malaysian to win a gold medal at an Asian Games (?); he won a gold and a silver medal in the 100m and 200m backstroke at the 1998 Bangkok Asian Games.
- He was the first Malaysian to win a medal in swimming at a Commonwealth Games; won a silver and a bronze medal in the 50m and 100m backstroke respectively at the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games. It’s even more impressive if you consider that Matt Welsh won gold in the 50m, and Lim finished behind Welsh and Ian Thorpe in the 100m. As at the time of writing, he’s still the only Malaysian ever to win medals in swimming at a Commonwealth Games.
- He was the first Malaysian to reach the semifinals at an Olympics (?); reached the semi-finals of the 100m backstroke in the 2004 Athens Olympics.
- He was the first Malaysian to qualify for a World Championship swimming final; he qualified for a world championship 100m backstroke final in Barcelona in 2003 and there scored a new national record of 54.77, a time to far ahead of other Malaysians’ that it’s unlikely to be broken for some time.
In 1994, she placed 5th in kata at the World Karate Championships.
In 2010, he became the first Sabahan ever to win a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games. His performance would’ve earned him 11th place at the 2008 Olympics and 14th place at the 2010 World Weightlifting Championships.
Dilbagh Singh Kler (1936-2012)
As at the time of writing this (18 September 2013), he still holds 4 state records in athletics after decades:
- 1,500m, 3:57.1, set on 3 August 1965
- 5,000m, 15:13.6, set on 29 July 1965
- 10,000m, 32:41.6, set on 4 March 1962 (that’s older than Malaysia!)
- 3,000m steeplechase, 9:16.0, set on 15 December 1971 (that means his youngest record is still not broken by anybody in the state even after more than 40 years!)
In fact, it was not 4 records but 5, as he also held the state 800m record of 1:59.2 set on 28 July 1968 that stood for 40 years before it was finally broken by Mohd Yunus Lasaleh.
At the time of writing, they’re all still so young that they might still need that face wash for acne…