Widely respected as one of Singapore’s greatest athletes, former national sprinter Canagasabai Kunalan, now aged 73, has many accolades to his name. These include getting podium finishes at the Asian Games between 1966 to 1970. For example, he came third in the 1970 Asian Games in the 200-metre(m) event. His most notable achievement at the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games was when he set a new national Singapore record in the 100m event, running it in 10.3 seconds. His personal best timings were 10.3 seconds in the 100m, 21.0 seconds in the 200m and 47.9 seconds in the 400m events. And because of his achievements, Kunalan was named as the Singapore Sports Person of the Year in both 1968 and 1969.
Following his retirement from national sports, Kunalan worked as an educator, specialising in functional anatomy and exercise physiology.
Looking out for more sport pioneers like himself
Today, Kunalan is serving as the Vice President of Singapore Athletics. Together with Sports SG and the Ministry of Community, Culture & Youth (MCCY), Kunalan is seeking to recruit Sports Pioneers like himself. Currently there are 345 on record and these include Majid Arif, Football star of the 50’s and 60’s and Tan Yoon Yin, the founder of Netball Singapore.
Explained Kunalan, “We are doing this, because Sports SG and the MCCY want to show appreciation for what the Pioneers did for sports when Singapore became independent in 1965. Some would have been as young as 15 years old then… and now, 50 years later, they would be 65 years old. Those who were in their 20s, like me, at 23 years old, would be in their 70s now.”
“So we want these oldies to know that we have not forgotten them. We want them to have a place to meet, a time to meet, keep past friendships, mend broken relationships and don’t take ill feelings to the grave. We want to give them opportunities to live a healthy lifestyle. So we are giving them free entry to the Sports SG swimming pools and gyms. Swimming is good for cardio and puts no stress on the joints. They can also have a light lunch with old and new friends – and chitchat about old times,” continued Kunalan.
In particular, Kunalan and Sports SG is looking out for national sports people who were born in 1949 or earlier, and represented Singapore in sports in any capacity – that is, either as an athlete, coach or official. Explained Kunalan, “This is basically anyone who contributed to sports when Singapore gained independence.”
Sports Pioneers still have an important role to play in today’s sporting landscape
The Sports Pioneers, according to Kunalan, still definitely have a very important role to play in today’s sporting landscape – even though they have retired from national competition for many years. He explained, “Some have become very knowledgable coaches and officials through their experiences and courses that they have attended. So they can serve their respective National Sport Associations.
“Others can act as role models and motivators, just by sharing their experiences. Some would be appropriate at various levels – for example, at primary school, secondary schools, higher institutions as well as the national and community levels,” continued Kunalan. So in this way, the sports pioneers would certainly be able to use their experiences to help today’s national athletes and help Singapore sports to continue to excel.
Sports Pioneers should not cut off their ties with their sport upon retirement
While Kunalan accepts that many of Singapore’s sports pioneers may choose to get on with life after their sports career has finished, he feels that they should not cut off their ties from sports completely. He said, “Though most have to get on with life – that is, through education, upgrading, starting a family and looking after their kids and so on, they can also choose to stay close to their respective National Sports Associations too – even if they don’t want to serve in any specific capacity.”
Eligible Sports Pioneers will receive lifetime perks
Sports Pioneers who are eligible, will receive lifetime perks such as a complimentary Active SG membership to use the Sports SG pools and Gyms for free. The main aim of this is to encourage the to continue to lead a healthy lifestyle in their twilight years.
If you qualify as a Sports Pioneer or know people who do, please get in touch with Canagasabai Kunalan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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