MALAYSIA: After the public learned in late July that former national squash champion Kenneth Low Ewe Loong had taken on a cleaning job to make ends meet, the Malaysian community rallied together, raising approximately RM170,000 (around $36,476) to provide support.
On 30 July, when Malaysian news outlet Free Malaysia Today (FMT) initially reported that Mr Low had turned to a cleaning job at an archery center, earning a monthly wage of RM1,500 (approximately US$330), the public response was overwhelming, with an outpouring of support aimed at helping him overcome his financial hardships.
Mr Low’s financial constraints initially prevented him from undergoing tests necessary to assess the extent of his health issues.
He was said to have been suffering from stroke-induced impairment, reduced coordination and motor skills, cognitive disability, and short-term memory dysfunction.
Thanks to the generous financial aid from the public, Mr Low has now been able to undergo a comprehensive set of medical evaluations.
According to FMT, the results of these assessments have revealed that he has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), a debilitating neurological condition and autoimmune disorder that impacts the central nervous system.
He expressed his satisfaction with the decision to share his condition with the public, as it serves to raise awareness about multiple sclerosis (MS).
Multiple sclerosis is a disease that impacts the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves, which make up the central nervous system and cause unpredictable symptoms such as numbness, tingling, mood changes, memory problems, pain, fatigue, blindness and/or paralysis.
Mr Low experienced a stroke approximately two years ago, and for several years, he has grappled with a range of movement and cognitive challenges.
Mr Low has reached out to four individuals to oversee the management of the funds raised by the public for his well-being, as he is unable to handle this responsibility independently.
The quartet comprises Noorul Ariffin, the chairman of the National Athletes Welfare Foundation (YAKEB), S Maniam, the revered figure in the world of squash, Jeffrey Kok, the proprietor of Best Archery Centre and Mr Low’s current employer, and Frankie D’Cruz, the journalist from FMT who brought attention to Low’s situation.
Low expressed his heartfelt gratitude, stating, “Special thanks to FMT, Yakeb, Jeffrey, and Maniam for coming to my aid.”
Noorul pledged to expedite Kenneth Low’s appointments at government hospitals and assured that his foundation would cover the costs of prescribed medications that require purchase from private pharmacies.
Responds regarding Kenneth Low’s lack of official support
On 31 July, Malaysia’s Youth and Sports Minister, Hannah Yeoh, took to Facebook to clarify any misconceptions regarding the support for Kenneth Low, the former national squash champion facing health and financial challenges.
Hannah Yeoh emphasized that YAKEB has been actively extending diverse forms of aid to Kenneth Low and they would periodically update on Kenneth’s progress and as they closely overseeing his treatment assistance.
In response to the widespread awareness of Mr Low’s difficulties, the Squash Rackets Association of Malaysia (SRAM) has established a relief fund with the aim of alleviating his financial burdens.
According to Gerard Monteiro, the president of SRAM, the association has gathered over RM30,000 (equivalent to US$6,600) in contributions from various sources, including former national squash players.
He went on to explain that SRAM has created a dedicated account specifically for the purpose of channeling financial support to former athletes like Mr Low.
Squash champion turned cleaner
To make a living, Mr Low took on responsibilities that included tasks such as mopping, sweeping floors, cleaning mirrors, and maintaining the interiors of elevators at condominiums for two years.
Mr Low, with determination, embraced his recent role at the Best Archery Centre in Glo Damansara, stating, “It’s a matter of survival, and I will do whatever it takes to earn a living.”
Jeffrey Kok, the owner-coach of the archery center disclosed that, despite Mr Low’s limited knowledge of archery, he hired him as a coach, emphasizing their practice of training coaches without prior archery experience.
Mr Kok also said he did not employ Mr Low out of pity.
Expressing his gratitude for the opportunity extended by Jeffrey Kok, Mr Low remarked, “The only happiness I have is being with good-hearted people.”
Mr Low first learned about the existence of YAKEB when its chairman, Noorul Ariffin, personally visited him on 16 July.
This visit was initiated by a notification from former national high jumper Loo Kum Zee, who brought Mr Low’s situation to Noorul’s attention.
For those interested in contributing to Mr Low’s welfare, donations can be made to the Public Bank account number 4919922822, with the reference “Kenneth Low Welfare.”
Six-time Malaysian national squash champion
In the 1980s and 1990s, Kenneth Low was a dominant force in Malaysian squash, holding the top-ranking position in the country for six consecutive times.
In the deciding game in 2000, Kenneth Low ended Pakistan’s stranglehold on the Asian team squash championships since the event’s inception in 1981.
Kenneth Low defeated Pakistan’s Mansoor Zaman in the individual semi-finals, rebounding to secure a thrilling title victory in Hong Kong with a score of 9-1, 9-3, 4-9, 9-5 against Ajaz Azmat.
He reached the impressive status of being the fourth-ranked player in Asia and the 38th-ranked player in the world during his peak.