Patricia Chan Li-Yin

Patricia Chan Li-Yin (b. 12 April 1954, Singapore - ), familiarly known as Pat Chan, was known as the “Golden Girl” for her supremacy in regional swimming between 1965 and 1973. The most accomplished in a family of talented swimmers, she dominated the 100m freestyle event. She captured 39 gold medals over five Southeast Asian Peninsular Games (now known as the Southeast Asian Games), often setting new records at each sports meet.

Education and training
Chan completed her early education at Raffles Girls' School, Methodist Girls' School and Anglo-Chinese School. She began swimming at the age 6, when a family friend brought her to the Chinese Swimming Club and literally threw her into the deep end. 

Thereafter, Chan's father Chan Ah Kow coached her in the sport, as he had done with her older siblings. A talented athlete and tennis player in his youth, Chan's father was named Coach of the Year in 1970 and 1971. He used innovative techniques  to develop her swimming skills and strengthen her cardio-vascular strength. He also put her on a unique diet, which was unheard of at the time. Swimmers from around the region often stayed at Chansville, the family home, and trained with the family, inculcating a sense of sportsmanship in the young Chan.

Following a rigorous regimen, Chan began swimming practice at 5:00 am each morning. The family residence was located near the Chinese Swimming Club where Chan and her brothers trained, and at the prompting of their father, they would often climb over the locked gates of the club for their pre-dawn training. She left for school at 6:45 am, and when she returned home in the afternoon, swimming practice resumed at 5:00 pm. This was followed by dinner at 7:30 pm, after which she focused on her school work. 

Career highlights
After rewriting local swimming records early in her career, Chan went on to capture 8 gold medals at the 3rd Southeast Asian Peninsular (SEAP) Games in 1965 at the age of 11. This feat, coming only a few months after Singapore gained independence, galvanised new Singaporeans who, for the first time, heard the national anthem sung in the sports arena. At the 1967 SEAP Games, she increased her haul to 10 gold medals. In 1969, despite problems with her eardrums as a result of a turbulent airplane ride to the Games, Chan reprised her feat of clinching 10 gold medals. In the 1973 SEAP Games, she scored a gold medal in the 100m freestyle event, in the process clocking a record winning time of 1:03:47.

Chan also captured several silver and bronze medals at the 1966 and 1970 Asian Games. A two-time Olympian, she clocked 1:14:24 in the 100m backstroke heats and 2:41:27 in the 200m backstroke heats at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

Retirement from swimming
Having been in the limelight since an early age, Chan decided to retire from swimming in 1973 at the age of 19. She was immediately invited by the Singapore Island Country Club to become its resident swimming coach. She thus became Singapore's first female professional coach, and in taking on the job lost her status as an amateur swimmer. Thereafter, she went on to journalism, moving quickly from being a rookie journalist at the pop magazine Fanfare to becoming editor of a sister magazine. 

Chan had sung in school choirs during her swimming days and her voice proved good enough to participate in the local Talentime as part of a singing quartet, The Vintage, which included local jazz singer Jacintha Abisheganaden. Her first musical, Stardust, was staged at the DBS Auditorium on October 1978. It featured songs from the 1950s and 1960s and was performed by amateurs, including her singing mates from The Vintage and her younger brother, Mark. She continued to perform intermittently as a singer after her retirement from swimming. 

Today, Chan is a media and communications specialist and runs her own communications company, Visus Inq., as well as a sports consultancy.

1965 : 6 individual gold medals and 2 gold medals for relays at SEAP Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
1967 : 10 gold medals at SEAP Games in Bangkok, Thailand
1969 : 10 gold medals at SEAP Games in Rangoon, Burma
1971 : 5 gold medals at SEAP Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
1973 : 6 gold medals at SEAP Games in Singapore

Chan was named Sportswoman of the Year, Singapore's highest accolade for sporting achievement, over five consecutive years from 1967 to 1971, an unequalled feat to date. Over the course of her career, Chan achieved a total of 39 gold medals, a record that stood unsurpassed from 1973 until 2005, when national swimmer Joscelin Yeo broke the record with her career total of 40 gold medals. In 2002, Chan was inducted into the Singapore Sports Council Hall of Fame and is ranked fourth on the list of Singapore's 50 greatest athletes.

Father: Chan Ah Kow
Brothers: Bernard, Alex, Roy and Mark
Sisters: Mei Ling, Vicky

Bonny Tan

Aplin, N., Waters, D. & Leong, M. L. (2005). Singapore Olympians: The complete who's who, 1936-2004 (p. 158). Singapore: SNP Reference.
(Call no.: RSING 796.09225957 APL)

Beltran, R. (1965, December 22). 'Golden girl' Pat's ambition. The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved on April 29, 2010, the from NewspaperSG database.

Chan vs. Yeo: A quick comparison. (2005, December 4). The Straits Times, p. 36. Retrieved on April 29, 2010, from the NewspaperSG database.

Chew, M.-L. (1976, November 18). The other side of Pat. The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved on April 29, 2010, from the NewspaperSG database.

Chia, H. K. (2004, November 2). Let them win more than 3 sports awards. The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved on April 29, 2010, from the NewspaperSG database.

Coach Chan, Dhillon honoured. (1976, August 9). The Straits Times, p. 23. Retrieved on April 29, 2010, from the NewspaperSG database.

Koh, T., Auger, T., Yap, J., et. al. (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS])

Life after thirty-nine gold medals. (2005). Achievements off the beaten track: Stories of Singapore sports veterans (p. 153). Singapore: Candid Creations.
(Call no.: YSING 796.09225957 ACH)

Nostalgia for Pat Chan in her first stage musical. (1978, September 20). The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved on April 29, 2010, from the NewspaperSG database.

Robert, G. (1999, December 5). First golden girl. The Straits Times, p. 51. Retrieved on April 29, 2010, from the NewspaperSG database.

Singapore Sports Council. (2007). Sports Museum Hall of Fame: Patricia Chan. Retrieved on April 29, 2010, from

Swim star Pat to coach at SICC. (1974, January 11). The Straits Times, p. 28. Retrieved on April 29, 2010, from the NewspaperSG database.
Yeo, W. (1979, March 7). They dominated swimming as much as the Quahs in football. The Straits Times, p. 26. Retrieved on April 29, 2010, from the NewspaperSG database.

The information in this article is valid as at 2010 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Award winners--Singapore--Biography
Women swimmers--Singapore--Biography
Sports, recreation and travel>>Water sports>>Swimming
Chan, Patricia Li-Yin, 1954-

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