Singapore athletics through the decades

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1970s: THE RISE

The 1970s was a golden era for Singapore athletics. Track stars C. Kunalan and Chee Swee Lee bagged medals at both the Southeast Asian Peninsular (Seap) Games and Asian Games.

Farrer Park was the hotbed where it all took place. There, legendary athletics coach Tan Eng Yoon moulded the talents of Kunalan, Glory Barnabas and Noor Azhar Hamid, among others.

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1980s: THE FALL

The 1980s marked the start of the decline of Singapore athletics. The Republic had only K. Jayamani's 1983 marathon gold to show for participation in five SEA Games, compared with 18 from 1971 to 1979.

The late 80s was also dominated by events off the track, as sprinter Haron Mundir took the Singapore Amateur Athletic Association to court over his 18-month ban. It would prove to be a recurring theme in the 90s.

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With the track athletes struggling to break through in the 90s, James Wong provided respite in the field events, winning consecutive SEA Games discus golds from 1993 to 2005, including a discus-hammer double in 1997.

Clashes within the Singapore Amateur Athletic Association and between its officials and athletes saw the likes of Ong Yeok Phee, Muhamad Hosni Muhamad and Hamkah Afik leave the scene either temporarily or for good.

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The turn of the millennium saw more improvement in the field. James Wong continued his dominance in the discus, and he was joined by Du Xianhui, Zhang Guirong and Dong Enxin, producing a four-gold haul at the 2003 SEA Games. The trio became citizens under the foreign sports talent scheme. Only Zhang is still competing for Singapore.

Highlights on the track included U. K. Shyam breaking C. Kunalan's 33-year-old 100m mark in 2001 and the men's 4x100m team going under the 40-second barrier for the first time in 2009. In 2013, Mok Ying Ren became Singapore's first men's marathon champion at the SEA Games.

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