Speech by Mr Tan Chuan-Jin at the Launch of “50est”
SPEECH BY MR TAN CHUAN-JIN, MINISTER FOR MANPOWER, MINISTER FOR SOCIAL AND FAMILY DEVELOPMENT AND PRESIDENT OF SINGAPORE NATIONAL OLYMPIC COUNCIL AT THE LAUNCH OF “5OEST: STIRRING STORIES FOR THE SINGAPORE SOUL” ON FRIDAY, 17 APRIL 2015 AT 7.30PM AT THE SPORTS HUB LIBRARY
Colleagues from SNOC, MCCY and SportSG
Athletes, officials and parents
Ladies and gentlemen
Thank you for joining us today for the launch of “50est: Stirring Stories of the Singapore Soul”. The Singapore National Olympic Council has been working on this book since 2011 when the idea was first mooted at the 2011 SEA Games. The project team faced a big challenge when they started working on it – it wasn’t easy selecting only 50 stories out of the countless our athletes have to tell. There are many original stories of our very own athletes’ endeavours which reflect their persistence, their grit and how they overcome adversities and failures. Many remain untold and I hope the SNOC can continue to play the role of sharing them.
For example, most of us know of Ang Peng Siong’s records in the pool but not many of us know of his influence on the 100 metres national record – on the track. U.K. Shyam who holds the 100 metres track record lauded Peng Siong as a benefactor when he was down and out. In Shyam’s words, “Peng Siong literally dragged me to the track and told me to run, it is amazing how someone from a different sport came into the picture and looked after me. That’s the beauty of sports.”
There is Lim Yao Xiang who epitomises the never-give-up spirit. He started as a swimmer but couldn’t make the transition from the age group league to the national team. Undeterred, he picked up fin swimming and won a gold medal at the Hanoi SEA Games. Then with fin swimming’s status uncertain at the SEA Games, he switched to water polo in 2006 and missed national team selection in 2007. He persevered and was finally selected for the 2009, 2011 and 2013 SEA Games. Like he said, “My story is very simple. It just says hard work and passion do pay off.”
Then there is a defiant child who played basketball secretly, hiding from his mother who tried to make him stop for a good reason. Ng Hanbin was diagnosed with one malfunctioning kidney when he was a child. Doctors advised him to stop playing contact sports but getting better in his sport made him feel “good” and he kept going. Hanbin is now a professional player with the Singapore Slingers and was a key member of the 2013 SEA Games which won a bronze medal after a 34-year medal drought.
Madam Tan Yoke Lan defied both age and ailment when she and partner Seet Choon Cheng won the women’s pairs gold medal at the 2011 SEA Games. Just months before, she was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer. She was advised to go for a total mastectomy immediately and needed time to recover at home. A week after the operation, she resumed training. What kept her going was her desire not to let her team mates down. Although contract bridge is not physical, it proved physically challenging. She suffered dizzy spells in between 10-hour competition days. She also wanted to do something for a sport she loves, she wanted to do well at the SEA Games because she saw it as a great way to promote bridge. Madam Yoke Lan remains an active bridge player today.
Athletes are the heart of sports, people are the heart of our nation. Everyone can make a difference to help build a better society to live in. My aspiration is that Singaporeans – whether young or old – when discovering our athletes’ stories, also discover their own purpose and pursuit for a meaningful life.
Last month, our nation came together to mourn the passing of our founding Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew. Mr Lee believed in sports. He believed that sports can help develop the character we need in a rugged society. He believed that sports can help promote a healthy lifestyle. While we pay tribute to our athletes in “50est”, we are also paying tribute to Mr Lee. How far we have come in our sport achievements is part of his lesgacy. Let’s build on it and create more success in the future.
My appreciation goes out to the team who helped put this book together – Chua Chong Jin and his editorial team, Danny Toh and Intent Design. I would also like to acknowledge the Sports Hub Library and Civica Library Solutions for their support. Last, but certainly not the least, to the athletes who shared their stories and didn’t shy away from the camera.
Thank you, I hope you will all enjoy “50est”.