Trip down memory lane at Swift's 70th birthday

From left: Ivan Goh, son of the late sports administrator Goh Teck Phuan, and former athletes G. Alagappan, Natahar Bava, P. Pillai and Mirza Namazie at the Swift dinner on Friday night.
From left: Ivan Goh, son of the late sports administrator Goh Teck Phuan, and former athletes G. Alagappan, Natahar Bava, P. Pillai and Mirza Namazie at the Swift dinner on Friday night.PHOTO COURTESY OF SURESH NAIR

They were top sprinters in the late Sixties.

Natahar Bava, also a rugby stalwart, used power to propel himself in the century sprint.

G. Alagappan, known for the most explosive start among his peers, always led at the 50-metre mark. But they always saw track maestro C. Kunalan's back at the finish, as Singapore's multi-SEA Games gold-medallist used his high knee-lift to saunter to the tape.

Such tales, and others such as Glory Barnabas' late surge for the women's 200m gold at the 1973 SEAP Games and K. Jayamani's well-executed run in the women's marathon in 1981, resurfaced on Friday night.

It was the Swift Athletes Association's 70th anniversary at Swatow Seafood Restaurant in Toa Payoh, where almost 300 people turned up in a fitting tribute to Singapore's best-known cosmopolitan athletics club.

Emcee Pavan Chopra set the mood with his humour and banter, and even led a dance competition with his salsa steps as the big screen recounted some of the highlights in the club's history.

Longstanding official Maurice Nicholas, 85, appeared in a video clip from Jordan, where he is attending a meeting, to congratulate organising committee chairman Sarvindar Singh Chopra for putting together a grand event.

So did former Malaysian sprinter Dr Mani Jegathesan, an Asian Games gold-medallist, who studied in Singapore.

He was a member of Swift AA, the club co-founded in 1947 by the late sports administrator Goh Teck Phuan, whose son Ivan, 70, flew in from Vancouver for the occasion.

Loh Lin Kok, 70, who has been president of the club for almost 44 years, taking over from Lau Teng Chuan in 1974 (first president was Yeo Choon Bee), recounted the club's milestones.

Sarvindar said: "For the young athletes, I say dream big and live your dream. Aim for the sky. There is much to learn from these past icons who were pillars of Swift AA who competed for sheer pride, not money."

But the man who should have had the final word, Kunalan, left the function earlier than usual.

And one athlete quipped: "Typical Kuna. Early night again, still showing the discipline he displayed during his sprinting days".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 19, 2017, with the headline 'Trip down memory lane at Swift's 70th birthday'. Print Edition | Subscribe