Tan Eng Yoon



Tan Eng Yoon (b. 8 January 1928, Singapore – d. 30 January 2010, Singapore)1 was a former Singapore athlete, coach and sports administrator. As an athlete, he participated in the Olympic Games, Asian Games and inaugural Southeast Asian Peninsular (SEAP) Games in 1959, where he won a gold medal for the 400-metres hurdles.2 As the national athletics coach for over a decade, Tan mentored a generation of Singapore’s athletes.3 He was also an administrator at the Singapore Sports Council (SSC) and Football Association of Singapore (FAS), as well as president of the Singapore Olympians Association (SOA).4

Early life and education
Tan was the oldest of four children. After the deaths of his parents during World War II, he assumed the responsibility of caring for his siblings.5 Tan was educated at St Joseph’s Institution and subsequently attended the Teachers’ Training College.6 He went on to study physical education at the University of Loughborough in England, receiving a first-class honours diploma in 1958.7

At Loughborough, Tan won the triple jump at the British Universities’ Athletic Union Track and Field championships for three consecutive years.8 He received a master’s degree in sports management from the United States Sports Academy in 1986.9 In recognition of his achievements, public service and contributions to the development of sport in Singapore, Loughborough University presented Tan with an honorary doctorate, the Degree of Doctor of Technology (Honoris Causa) in 2005.10

Athletics career
Tan picked up athletics at the age of seven and was a champion athlete during his days at St Joseph’s Institution.11 One of Tan’s first major competitions was the Singapore Chinese Amateur Athletic Federation meet in 1948.12 Tan became Malaya’s sprint champion when he won the 100-yard race at the Malayan Amateur Athletic Association (AAA) championships with a time of 10.2 seconds.13 That year, he represented Singapore at the first Asian Games in Delhi, competing in the 100-metre and 200-metre sprint events.14 Tan also made the Singapore team for the second Asian Games in Manila in 1954.15


Tan added the events of hurdles and triple jump to his portfolio, setting up hotly contested rivalries with Fijians Joe Levula (sprints), Orisi Dawai (sprints) and Tomasi Naidole (triple jump) in the 1950s.16

1955 was a particularly memorable year for Tan. In the Malayan AAA championships, he finished second to Levula in the 100-yard race, just 18 inches behind with an unofficial time of 9.9 seconds. He was also narrowly behind Levula in the 220-yard sprint and second to Naidole in the triple jump.17 Months later at the Singapore AAA championships, Tan turned the tables on Naidole in his pet event, the triple jump, setting a Malayan and Singapore record in the process. That record of 15.13 metres stood unbroken in Singapore for 32 years.18

By 1956, Tan had moved to England to study at Loughborough University. That year he turned represented Singapore in the triple jump and 100-metre sprint at the Olympics in Melbourne,19 having missed selection four years earlier. Tan also competed in the 4 x 110 yards relay at the British AAA championships at White City that year and finished second, just behind Brian Shenton, one of Britain’s best short distance runners.20 In 1958, Tan represented Singapore in the British Empire Games and Commonwealth Games.21

When the first SEAP Games (later known as the SEA Games) were held in 1959 in Bangkok, Thailand, Tan captained the Singapore contingent. He achieved the distinction of winning Singapore’s first gold medal at the Games, in the 400-metre hurdles, shortly before weightlifter Tan Howe Liang won his gold medal.22 Tan Eng Yoon’s feat marked the first time Singapore’s flag was raised and the national anthem played at a sporting competition in a foreign country.23

By the end of the SEAP Games, Tan had won another gold in the triple jump and a bronze in the 110-metre hurdles. At the following SEAP Games in 1961, Tan retained his triple jump gold and won a silver medal with the 4x100-metre relay team.24

Coaching and administration
Upon his return to Singapore in 1958, Tan was appointed national team coach by the Singapore Amateur Athletics Association (SAAA) and combined coaching with competing.25 Working full-time at the Ministry of Education, Tan coached athletes seven days a week without receiving a salary from the SAAA.26


During his stint as national coach from 1958 to 1970, Tan trained and nurtured a generation of top athletic talent, including C. Kunalan, Osman Merican, Heather Merican, Yeo Kian Chye, Glory Barnabas, Nor Azhar Hamid and Malaysian Olympic medalist Mani Jegathesan.27 Tan was joint-winner of the Singapore’s top coaches’ award for 1969.28

After leaving the coaching scene in 1970, Tan juggled multiple roles in sports management and administration for several decades. He served as team manager of Singapore’s cycling team at the 1971 SEAP Games.29 In 1973, he became director of the National Stadium Corporation, which administered the construction of the National Stadium.30

Tan helped to set up the Singapore Sports Council (SSC) and was its deputy executive director until his retirement in 1988.31 He also returned as advisor and chief coach to the SAAA in the early 1980s.32 From 1976 to 1988, he served as chairman of the SSC’s Coaching Committee.33 He also helped to establish the Milo Training Scheme for young footballers in 1974, and was involved in the scheme for the next 14 years.34

In 1993, Tan was appointed general secretary of the Football Association of Singapore (FAS).35 He was part of the FAS team that informed the Football Association of Malaysia of Singapore’s decision to withdraw from the Malaysia Cup.36 Subsequently, he helped set up the professional Singapore Football League (S. League) and was the director of the league’s administration and finance.37 He retired from the post in 1999.38 Tan remained active in community work and in 2009 at the age of 81 years, he was voted president of the Singapore Olympians Association (SOA).39

Death
Tan passed away after a road accident on the morning of 30 January 2010. He was crossing Upper Thomson Road around 7 am, after attending mass at the Church of the Holy Spirit, and was knocked down by a car on his way back to his home along Soo Chow View. Tan was taken to Tan Tock Seng Hospital and died at 9.50 am.40 About 200 people attended his funeral on 3 February, including many from Singapore’s sporting fraternity. In remembrance of Tan, a minute’s silence was observed prior to the S.League’s season-opening match between the Young Lions and Woodlands Wellington.41


Family
Wife:
Evelyn Yuet Yong.42

Children: Eugene, Kenneth and Sabrina.43



Author
Alvin Chua




References
1. Wang, M. M. (2010, January 31). A life well lived. The Straits Times, p. 41. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Honour roll. (1999, November 7). The Straits Times, p. 48. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Frida, E. (1971, July 7). AAA national Eng Yoon resigns. The Straits Times, p. 26. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Rai, H. (1982, February 24). Sports bodies plan training scheme for local athletes. The Straits Times, p. 30; Dorai, J. (1992, December 20). Tan Eng Yoon is new FAS executive secretary. The Straits Times, p. 40; Wang, J. (2009, May 3). Olympians to be remembered. The Straits Times, p. 37. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Tan, S. (1999, November 7). A serious athlete and man of honour. The Straits Times, p. 49. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. S. J. I. champion athlete wins four events. (1947, July 26). The Singapore Free Press, p. 7; Eng Yoon for U.S. coaching course. (1963, December 5). The Straits Times, p. 20. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Fang, N. (2005, September 7). Eng Yoon awarded doctorate. The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Fang, N. (2005, September 7). Eng Yoon awarded doctorate. The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Five get degrees from the States. (1986, August 13). The Straits Times, p. 21. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Background on Tan. (2008, January 6). The New Paper, p. 41. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Coach and top athlete Tan Eng Yoon is in running for Ahli Sukan. (1961, December 11). The Singapore Free Press, p. 11; S. J. I. champion athlete wins four events. (1947, July 26). The Singapore Free Press, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Coach and top athlete Tan Eng Yoon is in running for Ahli Sukan. (1961, December 11). The Singapore Free Press, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Winners in the year's state meets. (1951, August 17). The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Good funds enable 17 to go to Delhi. (1951, January 18). The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Chan Onn Leng, Tan Eng Yoon will join Lloyd Valberg. (1954, March 26). The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Teoh, E. T. (1956, May 24). Sportsfront. The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Eng Yoon betters only MAAA mark. (1955, September 11). The Straits Times, p. 19. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Chia, B. (1993, May 13). Thrilled to get it all started. The New Paper, p. 33. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Colony sending 65 to Games. (1956, October 16). The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Eng Yoon in white city relay race. (1956, June 1). The Straits Times, p. 16. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Our empire games team. (1958, February 22). The Singapore Free Press, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Wang, M. M. (2010, January 31). A life well lived. The Straits Times, p. 41. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Coach and top athlete Tan Eng Yoon is in running for Ahli Sukan. (1961, December 11). The Singapore Free Press, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. Wang, M. M. (2010, January 31). A life well lived. The Straits Times, p. 41. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. Wang, M. M. (2010, January 31). A life well lived. The Straits Times, p. 41. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
26. Sportsmen and women have fared. (1994, February 28). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
27. Lim, L. (2008, January 6). Driven by passion. The Straits Times, p. 37; Mansoor goes up and up. (1966, October 16). The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
28. Frida, E. (1970, March 22). Wok names the top three coaches. The Straits Times, p. 28. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
29. Frida, E. (1971, November 5). New role for Eng Yoon. The Straits Times, p. 25. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
30. Wang, M. M. (2010, January 31). A life well lived. The Straits Times, p. 41. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
31. Wang, M. M. (2010, January 31). A life well lived. The Straits Times, p. 41. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
32. Why the sack? (1982, August 24). The Straits Times, p. 32. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
33. Dorai, J. (1992, December 20). Tan Eng Yoon is new FAS executive secretary. The Straits Times, p. 40. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
34. Dorai, J. (1992, December 20). Tan Eng Yoon is new FAS executive secretary. The Straits Times, p. 40. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
35. Wang, M. M. (2010, January 31). A life well lived. The Straits Times, p. 41. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
36. Khoo, P. (1995, February 23). S'pore out of Malaysia Cup. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
37. S. Murali. (1997, March 5). FAS' Tan among trio for S-League Board. The Straits Times, p. 46. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
38. Singh, S. (1999, November 11). Now's the time for action, says Mah. The Straits Times, p. 54. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
39. Wang, M. M. (2010, January 31). A life well lived. The Straits Times, p. 41. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
40. Lim, L. (2010, January 31). Sports veteran dies in accident. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
41. Wang, M. M. (2010, January 31). A life well lived. The Straits Times, p. 41. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
42. Wang, M. M. (2010, January 31). A life well lived. The Straits Times, p. 41. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
43. Wang, M. M. (2010, January 31). A life well lived. The Straits Times, p. 41. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 2011 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 subject.

 

Subject
Male athletes--Singapore--Biography
Personalities
Coaches (Athletics)--Singapore--Biography
Tan, Eng Yoon, 1928-2010
Personalities>>Biographies
Sports, recreation and travel>>Sports