Patricia Chan Li Yin



Patricia Chan Li Yin (b. 12 April 1954, Singapore–),1 popularly known as Pat Chan, was the “Golden Girl” of regional swimming between 1965 and 1973. The most accomplished in a family of talented swimmers, Chan dominated the 100-metre freestyle event. She captured 39 gold medals over five Southeast Asian Peninsular (SEAP) Games (now known as the Southeast Asian Games), often setting new records at each sports meet.1

Education and training
Chan had her education at Raffles Girls’ School, Methodist Girls’ School and Anglo-Chinese School.2 She began swimming at age seven, when a family friend took her to the Chinese Swimming Club and literally threw her into the deep end.3


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, the elder Chan was named Coach of the Year in 1969, 1970 and 1971.4 He used innovative techniques to develop Chan’s 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 the region often stayed at Chansville, the family home and trained with the family, inculcating a sense of sportsmanship in the young Chan.5

Following a rigorous regimen, Chan began swimming practice at 5 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 pm. This was followed by dinner at 7.30 pm, after which she focused on her school work.6

Career highlights
After establishing local swimming records early in her career, Chan, then age 11, went on to capture eight gold medals at the 3rd SEAP Games held in Kuala Lumpur in December 1965.7 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, Chan increased her haul to 10 gold medals. In 1969, despite problems with her ear drums as a result of a turbulent plane ride, Chan reprised her feat of clinching 10 gold medals.8 At the 1973 SEAP Games, she clocked a record winning time of 1 hr 3 min 47 s in the 100-metre freestyle and bagged the gold medal, one of the six she attained at the games.9


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 100-metre backstroke heats and 2:41.27 in the 200-metre backstroke heats at the 1972 Munich Olympics.10

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, announcing this on the final day of the swimming competition at the SEAP Games.11 She was immediately invited by the Singapore Island Country Club to become its resident swimming coach, thus becoming Singapore’s first female professional coach. In taking on the job, Pat was no longer considered as an amateur swimmer.12 Thereafter, she moved into journalism, rising quickly through the ranks from a rookie journalist at pop magazine Fanfare to becoming the editor of a sister magazine and later, the creative director for a number of magazines.13


Chan sang in school choirs during her swimming days and her voice proved good enough to participate in the local talent show, Talentime, as part of a singing quartet, The Vintage, which included jazz singer Jacintha Abisheganaden. Her first musical, Stardust, was staged at the DBS Auditorium in October 1978. It featured songs from the 1950s and ’60s 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.14

Today, Chan is a media and communications specialist and runs her own communications company, Visus Inq., as well as a sports consultancy.15

Achievements
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.16 Over the course of her swimming career, Chan attained a total of 39 gold medals, a record that stood unsurpassed from 1973 until 2005, when national swimmer Joscelin Yeo broke it with her career total of 40 gold medals.17 Chan was ranked fourth on The Straits Times’ list of Singapore’s 50 greatest athletes, announced in 1999.18 In 2002, she was inducted into the Singapore Sports Council Hall of Fame.19


Family20
Father: Chan Ah Kow.
Brothers: Bernard, Alex, Roy and Mark.
Sisters: Mei Ling, Vicky.



Author

Bonny Tan



References
1. Suryadinata, L. (Ed.). (2012). Southeast Asian personalities of Chinese descent: a biographical dictionary (Vol. 1). Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 75. (Call no.: RSING 959.004951 SOU)
2. Aplin, N. (2005). Singapore olympians: The complete who’s who, 1936–2004. Singapore: SNP Reference, pp. 158–159. (Call no.: RSING 796.09225957 APL)
3. Aplin, N. (2005). Singapore olympians: The complete who’s who, 1936–2004. Singapore: SNP Reference, p. 159. (Call no.: RSING 796.09225957 APL)
4. Achievements off the beaten track: Stories of Singapore sports veterans. (2005). Singapore: Candid Creation Pub., p. 143. (Call no.: RSING 796.09225957 ACH)
5. Olympics: SASA to decide today. (1972, March 6). The Straits Times, p. 29; Frida, E. (1972, December 30). Teams get chance for ‘Best of Year’ award. The Straits Times, p. 28. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Aplin, N. (2005). Singapore olympians: The complete who’s who, 1936–2004. Singapore: SNP Reference, pp. 160–161. (Call no.: RSING 796.09225957 APL); Suryadinata, L. (Ed.). (2012). Southeast Asian personalities of Chinese descent: A biographical dictionary. (Vol. 1). Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, pp. 74–76. (Call no.: RSING 959.004951 SOU)
7. Achievements off the beaten track: Stories of Singapore sports veterans. (2005). Singapore: Candid Creation Pub., p. 145. (Call no.: RSING 796.09225957 ACH)
8. Achievements off the beaten track: Stories of Singapore sports veterans. (2005). Singapore: Candid Creation Pub., p. 144. (Call no.: RSING 796.09225957 ACH); Dorai. J. (1965, December 20). Pat and her ‘Golden daze’... The Straits Times, p. 19. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Achievements off the beaten track: Stories of Singapore sports veterans. (2005). Singapore: Candid Creation Pub., p. 146. (Call no.: RSING 796.09225957 ACH)
10.. Aplin, N. (2005). Singapore olympians: The complete who’s who, 1936–2004. Singapore: SNP Reference, p. 159. (Call no.: RSING 796.09225957 APL); Koh, N. (1973, September 6). Pat says farewell to Seap with 6 golds. New Nation, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Aplin, N. (2005). Singapore olympians: The complete who’s who, 1936–2004. Singapore: SNP Reference, p. 159. (Call no.: RSING 796.09225957 APL)
12. Achievements off the beaten track: Stories of Singapore sports veterans. (2005). Singapore: Candid Creation Pub., p. 149. (Call no.: RSING 796.09225957 ACH); Koh, N. (1973, September 6). Pat says farewell to Seap with 6 golds. New Nation, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Johnson, A. (1974, January 11). Swim star Pat to coach at SICC. The Straits Times, p. 28. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Achievements off the beaten track: Stories of Singapore sports veterans. (2005). Singapore: Candid Creation Pub., p. 151. (Call no.: RSING 796.09225957 ACH); Foo, A. (2005, March 6). Where are they now? The Straits Times, p. 31. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Sung, B. (1978, October 22). Stardust is swinging step to the musical past. The Straits Times, p. 13; Chew, M. L. (1976, November 18). The other side of Pat.... The Straits Times, p. 10; Stardust in charity show. (1980, November 13). New Nation, p. 19. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Achievements off the beaten track: Stories of Singapore sports veterans. (2005). Singapore: Candid Creation Pub., p. 151. (Call no.: RSING 796.09225957 ACH); Foo, A. (2005, March 6). Where are they now? The Straits Times, p. 31. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Methodist Girls’ School. (2012). Golden girl Pat Chan: Candid about sports and fitness. Parent to Parent. Retrieved 2016, July 27 from Methodist Girls’ School website: http://www.mgs.sch.edu.sg/qql/slot/u500/News%20and%20Events/Publications/Parent%20to%20Parent/P2P_Oct_2012.pdf
17. Achievements off the beaten track: Stories of Singapore sports veterans. (2005). Singapore: Candid Creation Pub., p. 153. (Call no.: RSING 796.09225957 ACH)
18. Golden girl Jos stars in stellar SEA Games haul. (2015, August 9). The New Paper; Golden girl Pat Chan. (2015, April 19). The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
19. Yap, K. H. (1999, December 20). A salute to our athletes. The Straits Times, p. 42. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts. (2002, January 11). Speech by Mr Abdullah Tarmugi, Minister for Community Development and Sports, at SSC Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Friday, 11 January 2002 at 8pm, at the Fullerton Hotel. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/
21. Suryadinata, L. (Ed.). (2012). Southeast Asian personalities of Chinese descent: A biographical dictionary (Vol. 1). Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 74. (Call no.: RSING 959.004951 SOU)



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.

 

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