Surrounded by family, friends, and members of the local athletics community, national sprint legend C. Kunalan was honoured by the Singapore Sports Hub with a specially commissioned artefact last Friday.
The artefact, a hand and foot cast of the two-time Sportsman of the Year, was unveiled at the Singapore Sports Museum, following a formal citation that paid tribute to his numerous achievements and contributions to the Singapore sports scene.
Mr Kunalan sharing his words of thanks at the Singapore Sports Museum. Photo: SportSG
Having achieved multiple Southeast Asian Peninsular (SEAP) and Southeast Asian (SEA) Games medals, as well as five Asian Games medals, Kunalan is undoubtedly deserving of this honour.
Yet, the humble 76-year-old, also known affectionately as Mr. K., felt otherwise.
“I feel that I have not done that much to deserve this attention. But, at the same time, I think that it [is a positive move].
Anyone who has contributed to sports should be willing to do such things and [be in the limelight for the betterment of the community].
Mr Kunalan with kids from the ActiveSG Athletics Club. Photo: SportSG
Although I’m a private person, I’m always with the public,” he explained, revealing that he had agreed to the creation of the artefact as a form of duty.
The work, put together by artist Baet Yeok Kuan, comprises a cast of his right hand and right foot.
The two elements are dubbed Passing the Baton and Best Foot Forward respectively; they highlight the significant role that our older athletes play in inspiring a new generation of sporting stars in Singapore.
Singapore Sports Hub CEO Oon Jin Teik expressed: “Mr. Kunalan is an inspiration not just to the athletics community, but to the entire Singapore sports community. It is important that we remember his story here at this museum, so that others can learn from it and be motivated too.”
(From L-R): Mr Oon Jin Teik (CEO, Singapore Sports Hub), Mr Lim Teck Yin (CEO, SportSG), Mr Kunalan and family, and Mr Tang Weng Fei (President, Singapore Athletics). Photo: SportSG
“This experience has been fun and I feel very humbled by it all. I am just glad that I can share my story through the exhibit display. I also wish I could do more for the community that has given me so many, many opportunities in life,” Kunalan elaborated.
In fact, Kunalan, who had been an educator for over 50 years, continues contributing to the best of his abilities till today. He currently serves as a senior manager at Sport Singapore, where he works with up-and-coming young athletes from the ActiveSG Athletics Club.
Sport Singapore CEO Lim Teck Yin shared: “Giving back to sport is something that runs in Mr. Kunalan’s veins. His achievements make him one of Singapore’s greatest athletes and his humility as a person is something that all of us can learn from. We hope that through this honour, his contribution to sport and his story will continue to inspire our athletes and generations to come.”
“K. is the most athlete-centric person I’ve ever known, and his passion has always been helping athletes and coaches in need. That is K. for you, a modest man with virtues of humility,” added Singapore Athletics president Tang Weng Fei.
Mr Kunalan with young Team Singapore athletes Kerstin Ong (left), and Elizabeth-Ann Tan (right). Photo: SportSG
Indeed, top athletes and promising youth ones alike all shared similar sentiments.
As two-time SEA Games marathon gold medallist Soh Rui Yong attested: “Seeing Mr K. being honoured today is very powerful. Track and field is not a sport that Singapore is historically strong in, so it’s not common to have one of ours stand out.”
Soh also felt that having the children from the ActiveSG Athletics Club present at the event made it all the more meaningful.
“When I was a kid, I used to get intimidated looking at all the names [of our sporting legends] in the Hall of Fame. But having Mr. K. right here today, shaking these kids’ hands, with them being able to see and touch him in the flesh… This could be a game-changing moment for them,” he remarked.
The hand and food cast of Mr Kunalan, made by local artist Baet Yeok Kuan. Photo: SportSG
15-year-old national sprinter Elizabeth-Ann Tan concurred: “I think Mr K. is a symbol of hope and inspiration for Singapore’s athletics community. I hope we will continue to embrace his values and positive attitude, striving towards greater heights and making Singapore proud.”
The Singapore Sports Hub will also be unveiling another art piece on 24 October in commemoration of the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global, and Kunalan will be joining international tennis legend Billie Jean King at the event.