HE was once unbeatable in the water and dubbed Singapore’s “flying fish” by the media. Meet Ang Peng Siong, who made waves in 1982 after clinching the gold medal at a freestyle competition in the United States and becoming the world's fastest swimmer. Read on and be inspired by one man’s journey from aspiring swimmer to Singapore’s #SportingHero.
Blast from the past
Farrer Park Swimming Complex in the 1960s.
Farrer Park Swimming Complex (FPSC) was built in 1957. Ang Peng Siong’s dad, the late Ang Teck Bee, was a pool supervisor there and this gave the young Peng Siong and his four siblings many opportunities to visit the pool. Back then, the swimming complex was one out of only four in Singapore and attracted a large crowd daily. There, Peng Siong could often be found frolicking and swimming in the pool. “This place is just like my kampong!” he once shared fondly in an interview.
Farrer Park Swimming Complex today.
Part-time coach, full-time dad: Ang Peng Siong's father, the late Ang Teck Bee (above), was a swimming coach who trained and inspired him to become a swimmer.
When Peng Siong turned five, he began taking swimming lessons from his dad, who was a sporting giant himself and had represented Singapore in judo at the 1964 Olympics.
“My father was very passionate about sports and spent many hours training swimmers. As my swim coach, he was very encouraging and would reward me with matchbox cars,” he shared.
Passion, together with a father’s love, played a huge part in moulding a future sporting star who would go on to make Singapore proud.
The life-changing moment
The year was 1982. Singaporeans watched with bated breath as a 1.8m tall Singaporean torpedoed through the water in the 50-metre freestyle event at the United States National Championship. They cheered when Peng Siong touched the wall with a timing of 22.69s and clinched the gold medal for Singapore. This remained our national record for the next 33 years. It was Peng Siong's tenacity and talent that catapulted him to success and earned him the title of “World’s Fastest Swimmer” that year and, of course, a spot in many Singaporeans’ hearts.
Today, the former national swimming head coach is the principal and founder of APS Swim School where he trains the next generation of swimmers. He may have retired from competitive swimming in 1993 but the golden boy hasn’t lost his lustre.
Despite his busy schedule, the 54-year-old tries to take it easy in life and ensures that he stays healthy.
“I try to swim about 2km at least two or three times a week. I also do weight training for an hour, two or three times a week,” he shared with a grin.
Old is gold
Peng Siong may be a source of inspiration for many but the “flying fish” shared with us that his role models are the ones who refuse to let age deter them from staying active.
He said: “When my dad was in his 70s, he had a few kakis of the same age who accompanied him to the gym. There, they did 100kg bench presses easily! I am inspired to follow in the same footsteps.”
A well-loved star
It may have been 35 years ago that Peng Siong was recognised as the "World's Fastest Swimmer" but, till this day, he still remains one of Singapore’s most well-loved sporting heroes. Just check out the comments you guys have left on our Facebook page here!
If there is one takeaway from him, it has to be this:
"Make sports a way of life regardless of your age. You're never too young or too old to take up sports. It creates a meaningful purpose in life."
Spoken like a true champion and #SportingHero!