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October 21, 2023

Singapore Aquatics to launch Hall of Fame in 2024 to honour local greats

SINGAPORE – It is a sport that has delivered Singapore’s only Olympic gold medal and brought regular success at major meets such as the SEA Games and Asian Games. To honour the men and women who have contributed to its achievements, an Aquatics Hall of Fame will be launched in 2024, Singapore Aquatics (SAQ) announced on Sunday.

The Hall of Fame’s inauguration will be part of the 85th anniversary celebrations of SAQ, the body for swimming, diving, water polo, artistic swimming and open water swimming.

This was announced on Sunday at a Farewell to Toa Payoh party, which brought current and former athletes in the sport back to the Toa Payoh Sport Centre.

They include 2016 Olympic gold medallist Joseph Schooling, Lim Teck Yin, who won six SEA Games golds in water polo from 1985 to 1995 and an Asiad bronze in 1986, and Patricia Chan, who racked up 39 gold medals at the South-east Asian Peninsular (Seap) Games from 1965 to 1973.

The Toa Payoh Sport Centre, which includes the Toa Payoh swimming complex, will close on Oct 31 to make way for the construction of a new regional sport centre that is expected to be completed by 2030. Athletes who trained there will now do so at various other locations.

Chan looked around the complex several times on Sunday. It is a venue that holds special memories for her as it is where she had her last competitive race at the 1973 Seap Games, which Singapore was hosting for the first time.

The 69-year-old, who chairs SAQ’s alumni organisation, the Legacy Council, was key in setting up the Hall of Fame, which she believes is a way “to tell our stories to future generations”.

She said: “For example, we want people to know that, yes you may be familiar with swimmer Joseph Schooling, who won Singapore’s first Olympic gold medal. But did you also know that Singapore also had a world-beater in Ang Peng Siong when he was the fastest man over 50 metres (in 1982)?

“The Hall of Fame will serve to honour people who have taken the plunge before, even as we dive into the next chapter of our aquatic story.”

Inductees into the Hall of Fame can also include sports administrators, coaches or members of the media. A nomination panel has been formed to select the inaugural batch of inductees. More details will be revealed next year, said SAQ president Mark Chay.

He added that the initiative was an important step for the association to build a close community and engage the aquatics alumni.

Singapore will host the 2025 world championships and the 2029 SEA Games and Chay, a former national swimmer and Olympian in Sydney in 2000 and Athens in 2004, hopes that more of the aquatics community can be involved in these events.

He said: “These events are as much for the community as it is for the athletes. So whether it is being part of the organisation of these events, volunteering for various roles or serving as mentors to some of our up-and-coming swimmers, we want to foster a closely knit aquatics community in the coming years.”

While honouring the past is important to Chan, she also singled out the current crop for their performances at the recent Hangzhou Asian Games, in particular the women’s artistic swimming team and the women’s water polo team, who finished fifth and fourth in their events respectively.

Teong Tzen Wei’s 50m butterfly silver was the only piece of silverware for Singapore in the pool, which represented a dip from the two golds, one silver and three bronzes from the 2018 Jakarta Games and snapped the Republic’s run of winning at least one gold since 2006.

Chan said: “The thing that surprised me was our women’s water polo team. Their growth has been superb. And our artistic swimming team, their performance on the day was so, so fine.

“What we have to do is to encourage upcoming people because that’s what somebody did for me. Singapore (must) keep encouraging the young people to do better and stand behind them.”

Written by: Deepanraj Ganesan, The Straits Times