Sunday 29 April 2012

Father of PE relives passion for sports: Dr Lau Teng Chuan

By Sanjay Nair, The Straits Times, 27 Apr 2012

HE IS recognised as the father of physical education in schools and pushed for mass participation sports events in Singapore, but Dr Lau Teng Chuan is now fighting a greater battle in his personal life.

The 83-year-old is in deteriorating health as he struggles with Stage 4 cancer of the stomach. But his undeniable passion for sport has shone through, as evidenced by an autobiography which he penned over the last year.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean was among a group of 20 invited guests who were presented with the book at a lunch hosted by Dr Lau yesterday.

Mr Teo - who is also the president of the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) - warmly greeted the organisation's former chief, who recounted poignant stories from his earlier years.

'The simple reason as to why I wrote this book was my grandchildren, who told me to put down all my experiences in writing,' said Dr Lau.

'My life has been about volunteerism. We took the risk of training youth leaders over the years, and I'm glad to see it's had a ripple effect since.'

But on a day when his life's work was being celebrated, he continued looking ahead at the Republic's sporting future.

He said: 'The future is good with the considerable progress made over the years, such as the upcoming Sports Hub.

'For me, it's always about taking worthwhile risks. If we continue producing more people willing to do that, we'll be just fine.'

More than 400 copies of his book have been printed. They will be distributed to various sections of the local sporting fraternity.

The one-time national badminton player and coach served as the Singapore Sports Council's (SSC) executive director from 1975 to 1992, before taking up the SNOC secretary-general post in late 1995 for just over six years.

Formerly the physical education chief at the then-Institute of Education, he backed the Sports-for-All policy that saw the expansion of sporting facilities into the heartlands.

He also championed an initiative to enhance coaching education and development in Singapore, which saw physical fitness instructors certified at the national level.

'Every Singaporean has benefited in some way from Dr Lau's work, whether they know it or not,' said SNOC secretary-general Chris Chan.

Dr Lau's former colleagues described him as a man who worked in a quiet, unobtrusive manner, remaining firm but yet down to earth at the same time.

Former SSC chairman Tan Eng Liang - who had appointed Dr Lau as executive director more than 30 years ago - believes that it will be hard to find another person who exhibits such selflessness and dedication to local sport.

'His contribution as a teacher, sportsman and administrator is second to none,' said Dr Tan.

'At a time when some are complaining of a lack of volunteers in our national sports associations, we could certainly do with more inspiring figures like Dr Lau, who always backed up his words with action.'

LAU TENG CHUAN (1929-2012)
Farewell to father of P.E.
Dr Lau helped make physical education key part of school life here
By May Chen, The Straits Times, 9 May 2012

THE Singapore sports fraternity yesterday lost one of its most well-known figures. Dr Lau Teng Chuan died at the age of 83.

The former Singapore Sports Council (SSC) executive director and Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) secretary-general, who is also affectionately known as the father of physical education here, had stomach cancer.

The tributes poured in - a testament to his achievements as sportsman, coach, teacher and sports administrator.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs Teo Chee Hean, who is also SNOC president, said in Dr Lau's autobiography launched less than two weeks ago:

'Mr Lau is a true gentleman, always calm, considerate, kind and fair with people, whether they are athletes, presidents, parents or officials.

'He has a passion for grooming young sportsmen, and I've seen him get really excited when he spots a young sportsman with talent and potential. He is a wonderful role model for all sportsmen and sports officials.'

International Olympic Committee vice-president and SNOC vice-president Ng Ser Miang, said on the phone from Kuala Lumpur: 'Teng Chuan was passionate about sport, believed in the value of sport and devoted his whole life to the promotion of sport.'

As an educator, the former physical education chief at the then-Institute of Education was influential in making physical education an important component in the education of teachers, students and sports associations.

Said Tan Teck Hock, academy principal of the Physical Education & Sports Teacher Academy: 'Dr Lau's contribution to the development of PE and sports in schools was immense.

'Ever the hands-on man, he would get down on his knees to scrub floors alongside his students, and his trademark indomitable spirit inspired a whole generation of teachers who would always put the welfare of their students first.'

A one-time national badminton trainee during an era in which the Republic produced world-class players such as All-England champion Wong Peng Soon, Dr Lau also served as the national badminton coach in the 1960s.

But it is arguably his role as a sports administrator that left the deepest impressions. He was appointed SSC executive director in 1975, a post he held for 17 years.

Said SNOC vice-president Dr Tan Eng Liang, who had a close working relationship with Dr Lau over 40 years:

'He had all the qualities of a top sports administrator - very effective, efficient and had extremely good public relations skills.

'We were not just good workmates, but also close and good friends,' added Dr Tan as he recalled fondly their squash games together every morning.

SSC chief executive officer Lim Teck Yin said: 'Singapore has lost someone who spent his life in humble service to our country.

'He was a teacher, a coach, a mentor and a friend to anyone in need of sound advice and a helping hand. When you look at our sporting landscape today, you can see the influence of his fine mind and the greatness of his spirit.

'He will be missed by everyone who knew him. However, his legacy lives on as the best of us - our passion for sport, our respect for education, and our love of Singapore.'

As SSC head, Dr Lau championed a sports-for-all policy and pushed for mass participation sports events in Singapore.

The National Aerobic Fitness Award, now known as the National Physical Fitness Award/Assessment (NAPFA) test, was introduced during his tenure. The test was later adapted by the Singapore Armed Forces as the Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT).

The National Survival Swimming Award, which tests basic water survival skills, was also his brainchild. It has since been replaced by the SwimSafer programme.

He also oversaw the expansion of sporting facilities into the heartlands, and championed for fitness apparatuses to be built in parks, stadiums and educational institutions.

He retired as SSC executive director in 1992, and later became SNOC secretary-general in 1995, where he served for 61/2 years.

Former national sailor, Olympian and SingaporeSailing president Benedict Tan said: 'From the time I was an unknown, Dr Lau was there for me, and for the sport of sailing. He was instrumental in developing the athlete support system that not only I, but many others before and after me benefited from.'

The Straits Times' sports editor Marc Lim, currently in London, said: 'Singapore sport has lost a distinguished servant today. Dr Lau not only served at the highest offices of sport here, but also helped shape it at the school level. Much of the progress sport has made over the years can be traced to his passionate and tireless work.'

Said Dr Lau's son, Cheng Hock: 'He set very high standards for us as a family in terms of being good people. He was always thinking of others and treated everyone with the utmost respect.

'Despite the fact that he was a champion of sports, to us, he was really a champion of people.'

Dr Lau's last interview with The Straits Times took place when he launched his autobiography on April 26.

He said then: 'My life has been about volunteerism. We took the risk of training youth leaders over the years, and I'm glad to see it's had a ripple effect since.

'The future is good with the considerable progress made over the years, such as the upcoming Sports Hub. For me, it's always about taking worthwhile risks. If we continue producing more people willing to do that, we'll be just fine.'

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