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Time for Joscelin Yeo to swim into Hall of Fame
WAY back in 1995, I was approached by Joscelin Yeo's mother, Lee Choo, to hand over a parcel to her 16-year-old daughter who was then studying in Melbourne.
Madam Lee Choo knew that I was making regular trips to the Australian city as my own daughter was also studying there. I readily agreed, and when Lee Choo came to drop the parcel at my home, I asked her what the contents were.
"Nothing much, just a dozen swimsuits. Jos needs them as she is swimming in competition and practice twice a day," she replied. When I arrived at her boarding school residence in South Yarra in Melbourne, she was in class. I left it with the receptionist, who beamed: "Oh, for Singapore's number 1 athlete. No problem."
Yeo was then studying at Melbourne Grammar School before enlisting at RMIT University.
Number 1. This has been a firm tag whichever way for the celebrated Yeo for 15 years from the 1990s and into the millennium, when she swam at multiple South-east Asian Games, Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and even the Olympics.
But for the 12-member Hall of Fame committee, this number for Yeo somehow does not resonate, for it does not list Yeo on the Sport Hall of Fame Roll where 57 other athletes have already been inducted to date.
When the latest round of names were announced by the committee last November, Yeo was again not on the list.
In a recent The New Paper interview, Singapore Swimming Association (SSA) president Lee Kok Choy prided in the fact that his sport had the most number of Hall of Famers, but it's a mystery why Yeo is not part of that list.
It surprises me that the No 1 swimmer on the total gold medal list at the SEA Games with 40 medals - a tally that even surpasses Hall of Famer and "golden girl" Patricia Chan, who has 39 - cannot be a shoo-in for the honour roll. Yeo also has more medals than Tao Li, an Asian Games gold medallist who has 29.
The criteria for selection for the Sport Hall of Fame are: athletes who win gold at the Asian Games or Asian Para Games or medals at Olympics and Paralympics; and athletes who can be considered national icons.
On the second criterion, Yeo (who also won two Asian Games bronze medals) should easily qualify. Consider these other points:
- Yeo began her national team journey in 1990 and only retired from swimming in 2006 after the Doha Asian Games.
- She represented Singapore at four Olympics (1992, 1996, 2000 and 2004) and was also Singapore's flag-bearer at the 2000 edition in Sydney.
- She swam at three Commonwealth Games (1994, 2002 and 2006), finishing fourth in the 100m butterfly in 1994.
- She was part of a world-record setting quartet in 2000 when, along with her University of California, Berkeley, teammates, she broke the 4x50m medley relay short-course world record in 1 min and 49.23 seconds.
- She was awarded the coveted Sportswoman of the Year award three times (1993, 1995 and 1999) and was prevented from picking up more such awards because of the policy that no athlete can win it more than thrice.
- She served as a Nominated Member of Parliament.
- Her contributions to Singapore sports helped her get inducted into the Singapore Women's Hall of Fame.
- She continues to serve the local swimming fraternity as a vice-president of the SSA. This is her third term as a VP, having been elected to office in 2014.
- She serves on the Women in Sport Commission under the auspices of Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC).
With these impressive credentials, Yeo should be an easy pick to go into the Sport Hall of Fame. Her omission is baffling, to say the least. It would be good for Sport Singapore - the government's lead sports agency under the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth - to enlighten us, and the SNOC and SSA should also put in a strong word for Yeo too.