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Track legends pay tribute to the late Tan Eng Yoon, who earned their respect and led

Discussion in 'Singapore' started by Loh, Feb 1, 2010.

  1. Loh

    Loh Regular Member

    Oct 9, 2002
    Likes Received:
    Stock Broker
    Singapore Also Can
    05:55 AM Feb 01, 2010

    The first step on the road to greatness

    by Tan Yo-Hinn

    SINGAPORE - Before every major meet back in the 1960s, Tan Eng Yoon would bring his sprinters, including Canagasabai Kunalan and Mani Jegathesan - arguably two of his greatest proteges - out shopping, but always to the same shop in Raffles Place. They would get to choose a new pair of spikes.

    That was the personal touch that helped Kunalan and Jegathesan, a Malaysian who was studying in Singapore then, to go on and become two of Asia's greatest ever sprinters and rivals.

    At the 1966 Asian Games in Bangkok, Jegathesan won three gold medals in the 100m, 200m and 400m, while Kunalan won the 100m silver and a bronze with the 4x400m relay team.

    Tan, one of Singapore's leading sprinters, sports administrator and a revered athletics coach, passed away in hospital on Saturday morning. He was knocked down by a car along Upper Thomson Road a few hours earlier.

    The Olympian, who had celebrated his 82nd birthday just three weeks ago, was walking back to his home at Soo Chow View from the nearby Church of the Holy Spirit.

    "He was never the big disciplinarian type. We were all young adults and he trusted us," Kunalan told MediaCorp yesterday.

    "Once, we couldn't get into Farrer Park for training because the entrance was locked. I suggested breaking the lock as we could always replace it afterwards.

    "But Eng Yoon said no. It was his philosophy to always do things properly and not take short cuts. We needed no motivation, because he earned our respect and made us want to run for him."

    Speaking from Monaco, where he is attending an IAAF meeting, Jegathesan added: "He practised what he preached. If he wanted us to work hard, he would work even harder himself. He set an example for us, and never said more than what was required."

    'a legend, a role model'

    Educated at Loughborough University in England, Tan clinched the first gold medal awarded at the inaugural SEAP Games - the precursor to the SEA Games - in 1959 in Bangkok when he won the 400m hurdles. He also won the triple jump with a leap of 14.51m - a national record that stood for 32 years.

    At the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, he clocked 11.4secs in the men's 100m heats.

    He later moved into coaching and helmed what was regarded as the golden years of Singapore athletics from the late '50s to the '70s, developing many of Singapore's track greats including Glory Barnabas, Yeo Kian Chye, Osman Merican and Noor Azahar Hamid.

    Kunalan, who held the national 100m record of 10.38secs from 1968 until 2001, was originally a footballer until Tan spotted his prodigious pace during a football training session in 1962, and convinced the then 20-year-old to switch to sprinting.

    Similarly, the sprinting talent of Jegathesan, a student at Anglo-Chinese School then, did not escape Tan.

    "He was a pioneer who was always on the cutting edge of the latest methods," said Jegathesan.

    Kunalan, 68, added: "His friend had a house at Dorset Road, and he would bring us there to do weight training, from squats to leg presses to lifting dumb bells. That was new then because we all thought being muscle bound would make us heavy and affect our speed.

    "His methods were very intensive too. I recall training on Sundays, where he would start with long-distance runs even for us sprinters, followed by weight training in the afternoon, before going to the track in the evening to do our sprints."

    Tan, along with the late Dr Chan Ah Kow (swimming) and the late Ang Teck Bee (judo), were also joint-winners of the first Coach of the Year award given by the Singapore National Olympic Council in 1970.

    As a sports administrator, he helped oversee the construction of the National Stadium, and was also Deputy Executive Director of the Singapore Sports Council (SSC) until his retirement in 1988. Later, he served as general-secretary of the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) from 1993 to 1999. Last year, he became president of the Singapore Olympians Association.

    "He was a legend himself, one of the best sprinters in the region, and a role model and an icon for all the sports people of that day," said Jegathesan. "His life story would invariably be part and parcel of a parallel story of sports in Singapore."

    The Straits Times
    Feb 2, 2010

    Tribute to sports icon

    By Frankie Chee

    WHEN he was alive, the late Tan Eng Yoon gave much of his time to the local sports fraternity.

    Yesterday, they paid tribute to the former Olympian, respected coach and sports administrator who died after a road accident on Saturday morning.

    At his wake in the Church of the Holy Spirit in Upper Thomson, scores of people dropped by to pay their last respects. During an 8pm service, about 80 people were crowded around his coffin, singing hymns to send the 82-year-old on his final journey.

    It was evident that the late Tan was an influential man on the sports scene, for those at the wake included Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who is also president of the Singapore National Olympic Council.

    The DPM offered his condolences to Tan's wife, Evelyn, 68, before walking towards the coffin to pay his respects.

    'Dr Tan is really one of our sporting greats,' the minister later said. 'Through the SNOC, I got to know him as a real gentleman with a very good eye for spotting young people with talents. It's a great loss to the sporting scene in Singapore.'

    1. Tan Eng Yoon with his trainees

    2. DPM Teo Chee Hean offering his condolences to Tan Eng Yoon's widow Evelyn at the wake yesterday. Former Singaporean Olympians were also present. -- ST PHOTO: BRYAN VAN DER BEEK

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