Athletics: Former national coach Lim Boot Hiang dies of heart failure at age 69

SINGAPORE - Former national long jumper Lim Boot Hiang has died of heart failure on Monday evening. He was 69 and leaves behind his wife and two daughters.

He was diagnosed with kidney failure three years ago, and was admitted to Singapore General Hospital last Sunday.

Lim was a two-time SEA Games long jump silver medallist (1969 and 1971) and held the national long jump record from 1969-71. Following his retirement from the sport, he became an athletics coach alongside his job as a marine police corporal.

He later became the first local full-time paid coach to be employed by the Singapore Amateur Athletic Association (SAAA) in 1994.

Among his former charges are heptathlon record-holder Yu Long Nyu and high jump record-holder Wong Yew Tong, whose records still stand today.

Under Lim's tutelage for two years, Yu improved on the heptathlon national record five times and she won a bronze at the 1991 SEA Games in Manila. She still holds the national record, with 5,116 points amassed in 1993.

Lim was also known for grooming high jumper Wong Yew Tong, who holds the national record of 2.22m set at the 1995 SEA Games in Chiang Mai.

Wong first met Lim when he was 14 as a schoolboy in St Joseph's Institution, and he credits the coach for his achievements which eventually earned him a spot at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

Said Wong, now 45 and an associate director (student leadership) at Singapore Management University: "Back then when I was a youngster, I would sometimes whine because the training is so painful and unbearable. But he always told me to give my best and pushed me beyond my limits. He taught me how to persevere and be resilient.

"He also taught me humility. I still remember the instance when I was starting to become better in the sport, he told me not to allow it to go into the head."

As a professional full-time athlete then, Wong would spend six days a week with his coach and he remembers how meticulous and detailed Lim was in preparing for his training programmes.

"When I was done with training, he would be back in office to record what I'd done - how much I'd run and the weights I'd lifted. He would study that to prepare for my training programmes and refined my jumping techniques. He was so meticulous and detailed.

"After morning training, he would take me out for lunch. In the afternoon, he would tell me to take a nap before training again.

"What people see are the records, but what they cannot tell is the strong foundation that he's built."

Lim's former team-mate and close rival who pipped him to win the gold medal at the 1971 SEA Games, Lim Hong Kang, recalled: "He was a disciplined athlete. We would hang out and play cards to kill time, but he would not join us because he's just focused on his training and competitions."