Helping Singapore's swimmers make waves

Mr Lee Kok Choy, president of the Singapore Swimming Association, is among 58 recipients of the Public Service Star.
Mr Lee Kok Choy, president of the Singapore Swimming Association, is among 58 recipients of the Public Service Star.ST PHOTO: ZHANG XUAN

Mr Lee Kok Choy

President, Singapore Swimming Association

Public Service Star

Mr Lee Kok Choy was on the pool deck of the OCBC Aquatic Centre at the 2015 SEA Games on home ground, when the speakers suddenly malfunctioned midway through the National Anthem.

But the spectators in the packed stands continued to sing Majulah Singapura with gusto.

"The hairs on my arm were standing... everyone could have stopped, but for them to keep singing was fantastic," said the retired country manager for Micron Semiconductor Asia, who turns 67 next month.

It is this pride, as well as resilience, that he believes sport helps to mould in Singaporeans, and he has had a part to play in it as the president of the Singapore Swimming Association (SSA) since 2014. For his efforts, the former national swimmer is among 58 recipients of the Public Service Star at the National Day Awards. Mr Lee had received the Public Service Medal in 2011.

Sport Singapore (SportSG) vice-chairman Cheah Kim Teck also received this award in 2016. Singapore Disability Sports Council vice-president Raja Singh received the Public Service Medal last year.

Mr Lee said he is receiving his award "on behalf of the entire swimming fraternity - from coaches to parents, SSA exco to its staff - who have given so much of their lives to the sport, much more than I have".

During his tenure as SSA president, Singapore's swimmers won 23 golds, 12 silvers and seven bronzes at the 2015 SEA Games, as well as 19 golds, seven silvers and 11 bronzes at the next edition in Kuala Lumpur last year. Both sets of statistics represent record highs for a home and away SEA Games respectively.

Mr Lee said he is receiving his award "on behalf of the entire swimming fraternity - from coaches to parents, SSA exco to its staff - who have given so much of their lives to the sport, much more than I have".

The sport also reached another pinnacle when Joseph Schooling won Singapore's first Olympic gold at the 2016 Rio Games.

"Whatever we have achieved in aquatics was built on the shoulder of giants," said Mr Lee, who is also a board member of SportSG.

Into his third two-year term as SSA president, Mr Lee and his team are working on "a spectrum of capabilities", including strengthening the coaching infrastructure within the aquatics fraternity, so that they produce better athletes.

"We also want to build on our capacity to have realistic but aggressive goals; to dare to dream."

Lim Say Heng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 09, 2018, with the headline 'Helping Singapore's swimmers make waves'. Print Edition | Subscribe