SEA Games: Remember Pat and Kuna at Yangon

SEA Games: Remember Pat and Kuna at Yangon

SINGAPORE - Forty-four years ago, at the 6th South-east Asian Games Peninsular Games in Burma, Patricia Chan and Canagasabai Kunalan earned those accolades.

As the curtains are officially raised today for the 27th South-east Asia Games in Myanmar - one among six pioneering countries to have breathed life into the event in 1959 - I am overwhelmed by nostalgia. High on my emotions were special interviews I did with the two legendary athletes in only my first month of sports journalism in November 1969.

And while the newsmakers were affable and accommodating (mind you I was a rookie reporter and they were already icons of Singapore sport), the minutes leading up to the interviews were nerve-wracking. Only weeks to go for the opening of the SEAP Games, I was assigned interviews with Pat and Kunalan. The historic Chinese Swimming Club was swimmer Pat's second home, a five-minute drive from her bungalow at Mountbatten Road.

A dynamic doctor, wearing thick-rimmed glasses, loud-hailer in one hand and stopwatch in the other, was pacing along the perimeters of the Olympic-sized swimming pool.

He was barking instructions continuously as the swimmers went through punishing schedules.

Pat's father, Dr Chan Ah Kow, was a dynamic personality who enjoyed dialogues.

But he was busy at "work", he wouldn't talk and you couldn't disturb him.

So I waited... and waited for the break to approach him and Pat.

He took occasional glances at me, but was focused on the swimmers splashing in the pool.

Then when Pat emerged from the pool, I thought I could make the breakthrough to talk to her.

But no, I was told to wait. For she dipped herself again.

An hour after Pat finally emerged from the pool, Dr Chan granted me the interview.

Of course, he intervened every time I tossed a question to the 15-year-old swimming queen, already dubbed the Golden Girl for her eight gold medals in 1965 and 10 in 1967.

At the end of it all, the good doctor, whose training prescriptions often led to golds, asked me: "You got everything?"

"Yes," I replied, armed with what I thought was the best newspoint from Pat: "I will try and emulate my 10-gold haul won at the last Games in Bangkok."

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