Karu Selvaratnam


I started my schooling in A.C.S Ipoh in mid-1955.  The then Principal was Rev. Kesselring.

Cricket was the only sport I played then, apart from badminton. That same year I found my way into the school cricket XI captained by Kong Kok Choy, brother of then PPP politician, Kong Kok Yat. My deep rooted passion for cricket saw myself rising up the cricket ladder in quick time, ably guided by our cricket master Mr. R. Kesevan.

When Mr. Teerath Ram took over as Principal of the school, he continued to give strong support. ACS Ipoh was then a force to be reckoned with in sports, with sports legends such as George Cumming, P. Gunaseelan and Wong Kong Leong (who later played professional football in Hong Kong and Australia), to name a few. The football master was the late Mr. Rasathurai, who himself was a state football player. In athletics we had a formidable 4x440yds relay team that was the best in the country.  Again this quartet, comprising  P. Manogaran, P. Gunaseelan, George Cumming and D.S Pandian, shot to fame in 1954, becoming the National schools 4X440yds champions. The athletics master was Mr. Lee Hoo Keat. Those were great days. I was 14 and so proud of my sporting heroes and my school.

In 1956, I decided I wanted to do more in my next few years in school and be among the elite few to etch my name in the annals of the school sports history.  Since my cricket was at a reasonably high level I decided to focus on cricket first. That year, Mr. Ram invited the legendry American Jessie Owens (1936 Berlin Olympics-quadruple gold medallist) to our school to address the students. I was so motivated by his talk, particularly when he touched on determination, dedication and the desire to achieve. I decided to use that “set piece” for my cricket. That year, I represented Perak in the inter-state school cricket league and in the same year also was fortunate to find a place in the Perak side in the inter-state league. It was fortunate for me because the Europeans in the side did not want to travel to Raub to play Pahang because of the then communist problem. So I got a lucky break and I made full use of it to do well in that game and subsequently became a regular in the state side the following year.

Also in 1956 during our school sports day, something occurred that was to have a lasting impact on my athletics and sports career. I was in Tagore house and our house master was Mr. Rasathurai.  Just before the inter-house 4X440yds relay, one of our relay runners, the late M. Shanmuganathan, had a hamstring injury. Mr Rasathurai frantically looking for a replacement saw me and told me to put on the blue singlet and run the relay. I didn’t have the faintest clue how to run that distance. When I received the baton, I just bolted!  I ran the second leg and contributed to our win. Mr. Lee Hoo Keat was so impressed by my race that he drafted me into the school relay squad for training.

In early 1957, Mr. Ram again brought in Mr. Tom Rosandich, an American athletics coach, who happened to be in town. He conducted a one-day talent scouting session and in that session I took part in a few events with the rest of the athletes. By that time I was able to run a decent 440yds in about 54 seconds. Mr Rosandich then observed me in the high jump pit and the hurdles. He suggested that since I could run the 440yds and hurdle a bit, I should try the 440yds hurdles. In the months to follow I trained hard motivated by Jessie Owen’s tag line – determination, dedication and desire.

By then I was firmly anchored in the school 4x440yds relay team. My relay mates were Dicky Chong, Benjamin Devadason and Appalasamy. On the school sports day in 1957, I finished second after Dicky Chong in the 440yds flat and ran in the Inter-School relay. The following year in 1958, I won the school 440yds in our school sports and in the same year I won the state 440yd hurdles event. In 1959, my final year in school, I etched my name in the annals of the school sports elite by winning the Victor Ludlum (champion athlete). That same year was the first Malayan Combined Schools Athletics Championships held in Penang City Stadium. I was entered for the 440yds hurdles and the 4x440yds relay. I broke the national record in the 440yds hurdles with a time of 57.6 seconds. Perak went on to also win the 4x440yds relay.

I found that my athletics training was of tremendous help to my cricket. It developed my aerobic and anabolic endurance. While I was progressing in my athletics, I was also simultaneously doing well in my cricket and had firmly established myself in the state team as an opening batsman. The following year in 1960 I represented Malaya in the Inter-Port cricket match against Singapore.

My other interests in school were singing and drama. ACS Ipoh offered me the opportunity to enjoy being part of the stage performances, where I was proud to sing alongside greats such as Miss Arul P, Mr. Vincent Daniel and the late Samuel Welch. Also during that period, together with ROMs Roy and Dicky Chong, we formed a singing group called the “Caribbean Trio”. We took part in the Perak schools talentime contest in 1958 and won the competition, singing “Marianne” in the finals.

ACS Ipoh was well known in sports. Apart from athletics and football, ACS started making inroads into swimming as well. Hockey was slowly getting to be popular and coming along to join the ranks of the other sports.

I feel that I need to state that Mr. Teerath Ram played a major role in moulding the school into where it stood at that time. He was an excellent headmaster who believed in all-round performance, in that apart from main stream education, sports and extra-curricular activities were an integral part of school life.  He put ACS Ipoh on the national map by being among the first few schools to have an Olympic size swimming pool and a full scale school library. He also re-aligned the school field and later went on to build our own school indoor badminton hall along with several other upgrades to the school’s main building.

At least I can say that I am proud that during my five years in school, ACS Ipoh held its own in sports, scholarship and drama with facilities to match the best schools in the country.

Soon after I left school, I established myself as the National Champion in the 400m hurdles and the 400m flat and was a permanent member of the National 4x400m relay team.  In the years that followed up to 1965, I represented Malaya and Malaysia in both athletics and cricket simultaneously. By then I had run in the Olympics in 1964, the British  Empire Games in 1962, the Asian Games also in 1962( 1 silver and 1 bronze) and in two Sea Games in 1961 and 1965( 2 golds). I made a comeback in 1973 and won silver in the 400m hurdles.

In cricket I played from 1960 to 1965 and had a break and then came back to play for the country from 1978 to 1982. I captained the national team in 1980.

I joined the Royal Malaysian Navy soon after leaving school and graduated as a Naval Officer from Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, England. After having served 28 years, I left and joined the private sector for another 14 years.

As I look back, I am proud of my achievements, I am proud of the pedigree – the pedigree of ACS Ipoh, which took me a long way up in life. I am indeed proud to be a student of this prestigious school. I can sincerely and proudly say that much of what I attained in life had certainly to do with my ACS Ipoh foundation. The teachers then were special, special in that they were dedicated and caring. They displayed passion in every single thing they undertook to do. The school itself had a beautiful setting, with the classrooms overlooking the field lined by tall majestic looking tembusu trees at the opposite end and the Church behind. ACS Ipoh was my playground and my classroom.

Lieutenant-Commander (Ret) Karu Selvaratnam, RMN

(Cohort: 1959 Form 5 General)

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3 Responses to Karu Selvaratnam

  1. Teo Chee Shi says:

    Dear Mr. karu

    I was once a student of your wife, Mrs. R. Selva when she was my form teacher in SMK Labuan in 1977 and 1978.

    I would like to find out how to get in contact with my teacher who helped me a lot during my times in SMK Labuan.

    Thanks and best regards
    Chee Shi

  2. Raghavan parthan says:

    A photo of yourself would be more informative to the generations of students after you.

  3. Akbar says:

    Thanks for a great post to expand my lyrics :) Where do you come from? Very worth reading

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