8 Singapore sporting pioneers you may not have heard of

(From left) Robert Tan, who was one of the first para athletes to represent Singapore in the 1974 commonwealth paraplegic games, Singapore netball pioneer Tan Yoon Yin, former footballer Majid Ariff, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence
(From left) Robert Tan, who was one of the first para athletes to represent Singapore in the 1974 commonwealth paraplegic games, Singapore netball pioneer Tan Yoon Yin, former footballer Majid Ariff, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong and former track and field star Tang Pui Wah, at the new Singapore Sports Museum on Oct 9, 2014. -- ST PHOTO:  MARK CHEONG

Singapore’s sports pioneers were honoured at a dinner party on Thursday night at the Singapore Sports Hub, where it was announced that former athletes and officials aged 65 and above would be granted a lifetime of free access to sports facilities.To be eligible, they must have represented Singapore at a major games.

The event drew some 200 former sporting heroes, including familiar names such as former track star C Kunalan and former famed football coach Jita Singh. But there were also many other faces, albeit less well known, who also did sporting Singapore proud. Here's a look at 8 of them:


1) Majid Ariff, 77

The only Singapore footballer to have played for the Asian All-Stars when he made the team in 1966, Majid Ariff is one name many football fans will definitely remember.Not only was the former national midfielder a great player in his day, he was also a mentor to many budding footballers – including a certain Fandi Ahmad who calls him the “most skillful player our country has ever produced”.

2) Tang Pui Wah, 81

Tang was Singapore’s first woman Olympian when she competed in the 100m sprint and 80m hurdles events at the 1952 Games in Helsinki, Finland.After winning an Asian Games bronze medal in the 80m hurdles two years later, Tang decided to hang up her spikes in 1955 – at the age of 22 which many consider to be the peak of an athlete's career – after thinking she could not trump the feat of participating at the Olympics.

3) Robert Tan, 67

His gold medal in weightlifting at the first Fespicc (Far East & South Pacific Games for the Disabled) in 1975 in Oita, Japan, made him one of two Singaporeans – the other being the late Frankie Thanapal Sinniah – honoured in the Singapore Guinness Book of Records for being the first local athletes to win an international sporting event for the disabled.An athlete who dabbles in multiple sports – he also won a bronze medal in javelin at the 1975 Games – Tan has now switched to lawn bowling, and will represent Singapore at the upcoming Asian Para Games in Incheon.

4) Glory Barnabas, 72

A member of the women’s 4x400m relay team who set the long-standing national record of 3min 43.85sec at the 1974 Asian Games in Teheran, Iran, that remains till now, Barnabas won two golds, six silvers and four bronzes at the SEA Games that she participated in from 1965 to 1977.She is still actively competing in meets under the Singapore flag, albeit in a different sport, in the long jump in Masters competitions, meant for female athletes over the age of 35 and male athletes over the age of 40.

5) Vijiaratnam Arumugam, 93

Vijiaratnam’s biggest sporting achievement is not the number of medals he has while playing for Singapore, but the number of sports he has represented the country in.In an age where playing two sports for your country is nearly impossible, Singapore’s oldest surviving Olympian has his name etched in the record books for participating in four different sports – football, hockey, rugby and cricket – for the national team.

6) Noor Azhar Hamid, 65

The 1974 Sportsman of the Year bagged gold in the high jump at the 1973 Seap Games on home soil, contributing to a total haul of six golds from the Singapore athletics team.In what he said was one of his proudest moments, he also set a local record that would stand for more than 22 years.

7) Chia Boon Leong, 89

A crafty midfielder who was known as Twinkle Toes for his dribbling and passing, Chia was one of two Singaporeans – along with goalkeeper Chu Chee Seng – who were drafted into China’s Olympic football team for the 1948 London Games.On the domestic stage, he led Singapore to three Malaya Cup wins in a row from 1950 to 1952.

8) Loh Chan Pew, 69

Loh was a silver-medallist at the 1973 Seap Games in Singapore, when his men's 4x100m relay team clocked 41.6sec. He is now the vice-president (competitions organising) of the Singapore Athletic Association.