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Sprinter C Kunalan has been an inspiration to the sporting fraternity who held the 100 mt record for 33 years

8/12/2015 4:21:07 PM
written By : Nithya Subramanian Print

Meeting Singapore’s greatest track and field athlete, Canagasabai Kunalan, reminded me of my grandfather. Warm, gentle and extremely gracious, there was not an iota of pride or ‘attitude’, a characteristic often found in young achievers of our generation. His bungalow located in the posh precincts of Orchard Road is elegant and simple. But it is the 72-year-old’s vivacious personality that puts you at immediate ease as he showed me his koi pond and talked about how a burglar came and stole 25 fish. “He desperately needs the luck,” joked Kunalan as his wife Chong Yoong Yin joined us. They have been married for 49 years and have known each other for over five decades.
“Tell her how we met and got married,” she prods him light-heartedly going on to tell me how difficult it was to convince their parents about this inter-racial matrimony, especially in the 1960s. “She was converted to Hinduism and has an Indian name Rajeswari,” he lets out. The house was bustling as his oldest daughter, Soma, was in Singapore on a holiday with her family.
The story of his life is both interesting and inspiring. In a result- driven country where grades and scores are given top priority, Kunalan’s story is one that highlights the importance of recognising talent and honing it.
At the end of the interview, when I asked him about parents’ obsession with ‘top schools’ and ‘grades’, he said, “Nowadays some parents are happy about sending their children to neighbourhood schools. This is the first step. All schools are good as all the teachers are well trained. Yes, you must pass your PSLE and secondary school. But if you don’t get into a university, you can go to a polytechnic or ITE… there are so many options. There are many ways to make your life a success.”

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