Sabah's First Olympian Datuk Gabuh Piging Dies

>> September 02, 2010

Datuk Gabuh bin Piging, PBs LJ: 7.15m, TJ: 15.38m

Sabah’s first Olympian, Gabuh bin Piging passed away during the 53rd National day on 31st of August 2010 at his hometown Tambunan, Sabah after fighting with a series of illnesses. He was 78 years old.

Gabuh bin Piging was one of the most illustrious and successful athletes from the land of Borneo. His athletics career started in early 1950’s, and just a few years later he took part in the World major athletics events.

Gabuh represented North Borneo (now known Sabah) at the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne in triple jump. Out of 28 participants he finished 24th after clearing a distance of 14.55m. His teammate, Sium bin Diau leaped 14.09m to place in 28th. Both athletes became the first men of Sabah to compete at the Olympics.

In 1958, he attended the VI British Empire and Commonwealth Games at Cardiff, Wales and competed in two events (triple jump & long jump). In triple jump, he finished 6th in a distance of 15.10m. Australian Ian Tomlinson won in 15.74m, with 2nd winner in 15.69m distance, and followed by next finnishers in 15.45m, 15.45m and 15.40m, respectively. In long jump he was at 17th place.

During the Police Championship at Jesselton (now known Kota Kinabalu) in June 1959, Gabuh who was already the best triple jumper in the region (15.25m) had a great form to break his marks. First, he leaped 15.38m in triple jump, which was 13cm better than his previous mark. This mark was subsequently recognized as Malaysian national record when the federation of Malaysia was formed in 1963. It remains national record until in 1986 when a another Sabahan Sidik Sahak (19 years) smashed it in a 15.45m distance during the 18th Borneo Games  at Kota Kinabalu. Meanwhile in long jump, he leaped 23ft 2 ¼  (7.07m) distance which later (1963) was considered breaking the 21-year-old Malayan’s long jump record 23ft 2in (7.06m) that was set in 1938 by Lee Fun.

Just two months later at the MAAU Championship in Kuala Lumpur, Gabuh went on to rewrite his long jump  record with a distance of 7.12m. It was again considered a new national record performance. Unfortunately for Gabuh, he actually had four fouls (out of six jumps) and one of the jumps topped 24ft (7.3+m), the distance that he had achieved multiple times during training.

In his favorite hop step and jump (now known triple jump), Gabuh was in the best form to break another record but he ended up registering on 15.11m as he pulled (injured) his thigh muscle.

Tom Rosandich of the United States who was coaching Gabuh quoted , “it was pity that Gabuh had a pulled thigh muscle, otherwise he would have brought off a big surprise as he had jumped more than 52ft (15.85m) during training session”. Now if we look at statistics, the winner of the 1958 Commonwealth Games had a best jump of only 15.74m.

At age of 30 in 1962, Gabuh competed in the Asian Games at Jakarta in both the long and triple jump events. Once again, he broke the long jump record with a distance of 7.15m. In triple jump, he managed to register 14.64m. Both results enabled him to compete at the VII British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Perth, Western Australia. In Perth, he finished 10th in the triple jump and again 17th in the long jump.

At age of 42 in 1974, Gabuh took part again in the Police Championship held at Gurney Road, Kuala Lumpur. He cleared 14.45m in the triple jump to add another gold medal in his collections he accumulated since 1950's. The jump remains the Malaysian veteran national best performance.

In 2003, Gabuh was conferred the Datukship in recognition for his all-time avhievements. This award is equivalent to a British’s Knighthood.

As of today, his personal record of the triple jump remains one of the Malaysia's All-Time best performances.

Following are the All-Time lists of triple jump for Malaysia:

16.29 Zaki Sadri 1989
16.24 Sidek Sahak 1991
15.80 Firdaus Salim 2007
15.80 Hakimi Ismail 2009
15.65 Chai Song Lip 1997
15.57 Zulkifli Salleh 1991
15.47 Ammar Fitri 2010
15.38 Gabuh bin Piging 1959
15.36 Mazlan Mahmud 1984

*photo courtesy of YAKEB

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