Sunday, 2 December 2012

Biography of Mr Lim Heng Chek, founder of IBSC

Some of you may have recently met the founder of IBSC, Mr Lim Heng Chek, during the recent annual lunch of IBSC. But how much do you know about him?

Curious to know more? Read on ...

Mr Lim Heng Chek made a great contribution to the Malaysian sports history especially in the arena of swimming some 60 years ago. Lim Heng Chek together with his compatriot, Fong Seow Hor, were the only swimming participants representing the Federation of Malaya for the 1956 Summer Olympic Games in Melbourne. Being an Olympian was rather rare those early days and Heng Chek was honoured to be part of the first Olympic team for Malaya.

As a competitive swimmer, Heng Chek had his training days mostly centred in Chin Woo swimming pool as there weren't many pools around KL to train. He had no coach to guide him, just his determined self.

Heng Chek trained all by himself as there were no coaches those hay days
Heng Chek trained with his wife (the lady in the middle with cap) and both of them still swim today

In the Melbourne Summer Olympic 1956, Heng Chek swam the 100m backstroke in heat 4, lane 7 and achieved a timing of 1:12.4s, a good competitive time during those golden days.

source : Olympic Games Record and Wikipedia

The Malaya contingent in 1956 Olympic Games, Melbourne
The Olympic Pool in Melbourne, the first fully indoor Olympic swimming venue in an Olympic Games and is the only major stadium structure from the 1956 Olympic Games with the facade intact until today. Source : Wikipedia

Merdeka Meet 1957 at Chin Woo swimming pool

In 1959, he also took part in the inaugural SEAP Games in Bangkok Thailand. The SEAP (Southeast Asian Peninsular) Games was conceptualised in 1958 and is now known as the Southeast Asian Games or SEA Games, a biennial multi-sport event.

Out of 8 gold medals earned by the Malaya contingent, Heng Chek took home 2 gold in his 100m backstroke and 100m butterfly. He also earned a bronze in his relay event.

Heng Chek is still preserving his medals well, 2 gold and 1 bronze, from the first SEAP Games Bangkok, 1959

After his stint in the 1956 Olympic, Heng Chek graduated from the Malayan Teachers College in Gelugor, Penang Island with a teaching qualification in Physical Education (PE) in 1958. Unlike his peers who opt to be posted overseas, he preferred to come back to Kuala Lumpur to work as he was very much a KL boy.

He had chosen to work in Victoria Institution (VI), a highly prestigious school and the only school with a swimming pool in the 50s. As a PE teacher from 1959 to 1964, he was not only coaching swimming, but also taught water polo, judo and even fencing.  

Lim Heng Chek teaching VI boys PE in the school hall (1958). Source : The V.I. Image Gallery

In 1962, he also took part in the 7th British Empire and Commonwealth Games, in Perth in the 110 yards backstroke event. However, after the Perth Commonwealth Games, much to his reluctance Heng Chek gave up competitive swimming totally as he constantly suffered headaches.

Commonwealth Games in Perth, 1962
A commemorative medal from the IV Asian Games in 1962 in Indonesia

In 1964, Heng Chek quit his job in VI after he was offered a superintendent job in Weld Road swimming pool. By then he was already helming the post of Assistant Secretary of the Selangor Swimming Association. He was also the Chairman of Swimming in the Selangor School Sports Council and played an active role in swimming sports in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur including the III SEAP Games held in Kuala Lumpur in 1965.

It was in Weld swimming pool that he nurtured his pioneer batch of swimmers starting from just 2 of them and growing them by numbers to eventually form Ikan Bilis Swimming Club in the late 60s. 

Heng Chek (on extreme left) with some IBSC swimmers at Weld road swimming pool
Heng Chek was together with the Malaysian team in the Inter-Friendship Meet in Beijing in 1975

Heng Chek brought swimmers to join local competitions as well as meets abroad and their constant sweep of medals and winnings had made IBSC so popular to the envy of many. IBSC's pioneer batches of swimmers were all full of gratitude to their coach and their appreciation of Heng Chek was portrayed in a framed tribute paid to him years ago.

An accolade proudly adorning the wall of Heng Chek's residence
A meaningful poem dedicated to Heng Chek from his ex-Ikan Bilises

Later, Heng Chek ventured to Brunei in 1985 as a superintendent until 1991. He returned to the country in 1998 when offered as Brunei's national coach, coaching at Hassanal Bolkiah National Sports Complex Swimming Pool for 2 years until 2000, where he prepared the Brunei swim team for 1999 20th SEA Games organised by Brunei. He was called back again for his service in 2002 until he retired in 2004.

A cartoon illustration of Heng Chek

A colourful swimming history decorates the life of Heng Chek indeed as has always enjoyed this sports in and outside the pool until today.

Kudos to Mr Lim Heng Chek for all the dedicated contributions made to the swimming community and especially to IBSC!

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