Obituary: SNOC vice-president and former taekwondo chief Milan Kwee dies at 74

Singapore National Olympic Council vice-president Milan Kwee at the 2014 Singapore Sports Awards ceremony. The former Singapore Taekwondo Federation chief died on Tuesday at the age of 74.
Singapore National Olympic Council vice-president Milan Kwee at the 2014 Singapore Sports Awards ceremony. The former Singapore Taekwondo Federation chief died on Tuesday at the age of 74. PHOTO: ST FILE
Mr Milan Kwee was part of Singapore's first taekwondo national team who competed at the inaugural 1973 World Championships. PHOTO: SNOC

SINGAPORE - Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) vice-president and veteran sports administrator Milan Kwee died on Tuesday (March 9) night. He was 74.

Kwee, who was elected as one of the SNOC's vice-presidents in 2018, had also served as the Singapore Taekwondo Federation's president over two separate terms. The first was a two-year term in 1983, before he returned as the federation's chief from 2004 to 2018.

Before he was elected as SNOC's vice-president, Kwee was on the executive committee of the SNOC as a representative of the National Sports Associations (NSA), a position he had held since June 2012.

He also led the Singapore contingent as the chef de mission at the 2017 SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur, where the Republic claimed a record-breaking overseas haul of 58 golds.

Kwee was also a distinguished athlete and was part of Singapore's first taekwondo national team that competed at the inaugural 1973 World Championships.

In his time representing Singapore, he bagged multiple national titles as well as a gold and silver at the first two Asian Taekwondo Championships in 1971 and 1969 respectively.

SNOC president and Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin was among those who paid tribute to Kwee's contributions. He said: "We have lost a fine sportsman, friend and colleague. Rest in peace, Milan."

Fellow SNOC vice-president Jessie Phua, who is also Singapore Bowling Federation's president, added: "Milan was a good friend, especially with my husband Jimmy. They started taekwondo together and shared a friendship of over 50 years.

"Sport has lost a strong and committed promoter. Always friendly and helpful, my sporting colleagues and I have lost a good partner. On behalf of all the NSAs, we extend our deepest condolences to the Kwee family."

In a photo taken on Aug 16, 2017, members of Team Singapore, including chef de mission Milan Kwee (in sunglasses behind placard) sing the national anthem during the SEA Games welcome ceremony. PHOTO: ST FILE

International Olympic Committee vice-president Ng Ser Miang recalled some fond memories he and Kwee shared and noted: "To me, you were my dive master who introduce me to the joy of diving and opened my eyes to a beautiful world under the sea... To my children when they were small, you were 'uncle shell' who brought them beautiful shells from your dives.

"We will miss the tea, coffee and makan together and the national sports associations will miss the leader who started the chat group to support one another and drive the our national sport agenda."

Singapore Taekwondo Federation president Edwin Lee acknowledged Kwee's contributions to the sport locally and globally and also remembered him as someone who was willing to help anyone.

He said: "He put Singapore on the world map. Since he stepped down in Singapore, he's been helping the sport around the world.

"In Singapore, he built up the federation and he bought the premise so that we don't have to look for a new premise. His whole life revolved around taekwondo.

"He was never short of advice for anybody. If you had a problem with anything, you could just ask him or if you needed some advice, he'd guide you along step by step."

National taekwondo exponent Chelsea Sim recalled how Kwee often asked after her family and would approach her mother and grandmother in the stands whenever they supported her at competitions.

The 25-year-old said: "He had my best interests at heart, he also cared about my family. That means a lot because it shows that he not only cares about how I do in the sport, but he goes beyond that.

"He was there to see me win many medals and saw me create new milestones throughout my sporting career. But in the sporting scene, there aren't only victories and he was there through all the low points when I didn't win - that's where he encouraged, supported and believed in me no matter what."

International association European Taekwondo Union posted on Facebook: "President (Sakis) Pragalos, the Council and the whole European Taekwondo Family wishes the Kwee Family strength in these difficult times. The memory of Milan Kwee will always live in all of us."

World Taekwondo announced that it had set up a memorial altar for Kwee at the federation's headquarters in Seoul, South Korea, which will stand for three days. Kwee was conferred the title of 'Honorary Citizen of Seoul' by the Seoul Metropolitan Government in 2016 in recognition of his decades of service to taekwondo, the national sport of Korea.

Kwee leaves behind his wife Renee, children Gene and Dawn, and a grandson.

Gene, 43, said: "At home he was my dad, a loving husband, father and grandfather. We never knew the amount of contribution he made, how much his work meant to others and made a difference in the sport. He will be missed."

Correction note: An earlier version of this story said that Milan Kwee died on Monday, aged 75. The SNOC has since clarified that Kwee died on Tuesday and he was 74.

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