Jesse Owens, the greatest athlete in the history of sports, has a special link with ACS Ipoh. As a triple gold medallist at the infamous 1936 Munich Olympics, Owens (Photo1) shattered the myth of Aryan racial superiority before the then all conquering bigot, Adolf Hitler. Owens then went on to achieve global fame and influence in areas well beyond the bounds of sports. Thus in 1956, ACS Ipoh was justly proud to host Jesse Owens, a legend in his own time. This rather fortunate tryst of ours with a true icon of the sports world is but one notable event in the rich sports heritage of ACS Ipoh.
Photo 1: Jesse Owens’ triple gold medallist at the 1936 Olympics and regarded by many as the greatest Olympian ever, addressed our students at ACS Ipoh in 1956. His call to always aim for the highest, inspired numerous Old Salts to become Olympians themselves.
It was also the destiny of ACS Ipoh to have other “dream” ties with the Olympics, of which we can also be justly proud of. Unlike the Owens visit which was rather fortuitous, these other links were more of our own making. They were forged on the back of sheer hard work and talent of ACS Ipoh sportsmen and our visionary leaders. The Olympics represent the pinnacle of achievement in sports on the planet. As such, the fact that ACS Ipoh “Old Salts” represented the nation in almost every Olympic Games held since 1952 (Helsinki), through to 1984 (Los Angeles), provides convincing testimony of our rich sporting pedigree.
Over the years, ACS Ipoh had also produced sports persons who represented our nation at world cups and other world championships in a variety of major sports including Badminton, Swimming, Football, Hockey, Weight Lifting, Athletics, Cricket and Tae-Kwon Do. In world Badminton, Old Salts represented the nation during three (1949, 1955 and 1992) of the five occasions when the nation won the Thomas Cup. In 1992 it was Old Salt Cheah Soon Kit who clinched the winning point for the nation. Indeed, ACS Ipoh’s sports heritage is one which would surely be the pride of any school in any country. But will this proud sports heritage of ours continue?
Photo 2: “Old Salt “ Cheah Soon Kit (left) and his doubles partner clinch the winning point against Indonesia to regain the Thomas Cup at the 1992 Finals.
In the first place, as Alumni, must we continue to harbour ambitions for our Alma Mater to remain a high achiever in sports? Reflecting on this, one is reminded of Lord Wellington’s remarks that “Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton.” This soldier-statesman, who changed the course of world history, evidently believed that leadership must be groomed, starting from young at great schools. Further, such schools derive their pre-eminence from the grooming of potential leaders through a judicious blend of studies and sports. On hindsight, and based on personal experiences, most ACS Ipoh Alumni would agree that school sports certainly helps to develop leadership and in general prepares a student to meet life’s many challenges.
The wisdom of complementing achievement in sports with excellence in education obviously inspired our visionary forefathers to create a great school in ACS Ipoh. Thus, all who have passed through its portals have benefitted from the tremendous opportunities for the development of leadership, camaraderie and team spirit through sports. Whilst it nurtured the sports icons who were inspirational; uniquely ACS Ipoh sports also had a tradition of immersing the wider student body into it. Most certainly, such interaction also helped to foster the inter-racial bonding and co-operation amongst all who were fortunate to call ACS Ipoh their home.
At the outset, perhaps it is best to begin with an unbiased appraisal of our sporting achievements of the past. Then we may want to reflect on the underlying reasons which contributed to its success. And, finally, ponder as to what the future holds for it.
Our past achievements
ACS Ipoh traditionally produces great results on the academic front, producing Queen’s Scholars and Federal Scholarship winners in regular fashion. But did we really also excel in sports? The following, which highlights our achievements in a variety of major sports, should provide some clear evidence of our past sporting prowess:
1949: Teoh Seng Khoon (Badminton – Doubles Player): member of victorious national team in inaugural Thomas Cup competition in England. He has also won the gold in the All England Championship.
1952: Professor Thong Saw Pak (Weight Lifter): ACS Ipoh’s first Olympian. Participated in the Helsinki Olympics, was earlier a silver medallist in the Empire Games in New Zealand.
1955: Tan Jin Eong (Badminton- Doubles Player) who played for the national team which won the 1955 Thomas Cup in Singapore.
1956: Philip Sankey (Hockey Player): Represented Malaysia in the Melbourne Olympic Games.
1960: Looi Teik Soon (Soccer Player) who was member of Malaysia’s soccer team at the Munich Olympics. Malaysia qualified for the very first time.
1961: Leong Chim Seong (Body Builder) who won the “Mr Australia” title.
1962: Colin Clark (Swimmer): Colin held several national swimming records. He represented Malaysia in the Jakarta Asian Games.
1964: Karu Selvaratnam (Athletics and Cricket): Double international. He participated in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics in hurdles, regularly breaking the national 400 metres hurdles he first set in 1959. His record stood until 1989. Karu also captained the national cricket team, played in the Mini Cricket World Cup in Birmingham in 1982. (See Karu’s article for details of his exploits on the Field) .
1964: Cheah Tong Kim (Swimmer): Malaysia’s “Swimmer of The Year” who represented Malaysia in the Tokyo Olympics. Also swam in the Jakarta Asian Games and was Malaysia’s only swimmer in the Kingston Commonwealth Games.
1971: Koo Kim Kuang (Cricketer): Played for the national side and continued to do so until 1983 when he was named National Vice-Captain. He also represented Malaysia in the 1982 Mini World Cup in Birmingham.
1975: M Vishnu (Hockey): Represented the country in the 1975 World Cup.
1975: Dato Poon Fook Loke (Hockey) He was a member of the famous national side which emerged fourth at the Kuala Lumpur World Cup. Also played in two other world events – the 1976 Montreal Olympics and the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. In 1974, he was chosen to be a member of the Asian All Stars Hockey X1.
1975: Azraai Zain (Hockey) who represented Malaysia in the 1975 World Cup and 1976 Montreal Olympics.
!982: Ong Mei Lin (Swimmer): She represented Malaysia at the Munich Olympics, and was Malaysia’s “Sportswoman of the Year”.
1987: Ravichandran (Tae-Kwon Do) He won bronze at the 1987 World Championship. Prior to this he won the Asian Heavyweight crown.
1992: Cheah Soon Kit (Badminton) Represented Malaysia in Thomas Cup and other international tournaments. In 1992, the last time Malaysia won the Thomas Cup, he helped to clinch the winning point. (See picture)
1994: Rakesh Chander Nair (Cricket): Played for Malaysia in the Mini World Cup in Kenya.
The achievements of some of the abovementioned ACS Ipoh Olympians and World Cuppers were celebrated in the ACS Ipoh Centenary Publication released in 1995. A photo extract from the article (Photo 3) is reproduced herewith to remind us of the exploits of our fellow Old Salts.
In more recent times, another famous Old Salt Olympian was Nor Saiful Zaini who captained the national hockey team in a number of Olympics. Nor Saiful was national skipper in the 1992 Barcelona games, the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and the 2000 Sydney Olympics. He was also a Hockey World Cupper and now serves as a Coach of the national team. All these sportsmen certainly unfurled our banner and ensured that ACS Ipoh was “known throughout the world.” Indeed Nor Saiful as flag bearer , did literally carry the national flag aloft at the Atlanta games Olympics.
Years earlier at another Olympic Games, Old Salt, Tan Sri Khaw Kai Boh, was the Chef de Mission of our national contingent. Indeed ACS Ipoh’s love affair with the Olympics and sports, spanned many generations and remains a proud keystone of our schools’ Sporting Heritage.
Photo 3 (credit: ACS Ipoh Centenary Publication); Some of the notable Olympians and World Cuppers from ACS Ipoh.
Besides producing individuals who literally reached Olympian heights, ACS Ipoh also produced over the years, some teams which brought great pride and prestige to the school and the nation.
Amongst the great were the School’s swimming and water-polo teams of the mid-1960s. In 1966, three of the four in the Perak Men’s 4x100m freestyle swimming team, viz, Tsang Hing Chau, Phang Che Foo and Cheong King Ngok, were ACS swimmers. They struck gold at the national meet. (1966 School Swimming Team appears as Photo 4). Victor Lau represented Malaysia in the 1965 SEAP Games where he won silver in the spring board diving event. ACS Ipoh dominated schools swimming for many years. In 1967, the Perak Team to the Malaysian Junior Swimming Championship comprised entirely of our swimmers. In the 1968 Malaysian Combined Schools Meet, 10 of the 11 Perak swimmers were from the ACS. In the Malaysian Junior Meet the same year, Lim Cheik Sung won 9 gold medals and Chin Yoong Fee won 3 golds. Our School Water Polo players of the mid 1960s were feared in Perak. Wong Heng Cheong and team-mates swept all others aside at Perak schools level.
Photo 4: (credit: Voyager) School Swimming team 1966 which included national swimmer Tsang Hing Chaw and Victor Lau. One of many ACS Ipoh teams in the 1960s to include national swimmers.
Hockey was another sport in which the School excelled. The teams of the mid to late 1960s were formidable. (1968 team appears as Photo 5 )For many years, almost our entire first team were also national, state, or combined school stars. Lam Kok Meng was a national player and PS Theymudu played for State and went for national trials. Other stars were national players Poon Foke Loke, Vishnu and Azraai Zain. Another who also played for Malaysia was Mr Savrinder Singh or China Bai as he was fondly called. Besides dominating State hockey, the 1966 team conducted a tour of Kuala Lumpur returning undefeated despite playing traditional hockey powers such as VI, RMC and MTC.
Photo 5: (credit: Voyager ) The 1968 School Hockey Team. One of many champion teams ACS Ipoh produced in the 1960s. Includes Poon Fook Loke , Azraai and captain Lam Kok Meng (future national stars)
From the 1950’s ACS Ipoh produced a series of 4×440 yard relay teams which won national honours in Athletics. Amongst the earliest of these teams was the quartet which included, at different times, P. Gunaseelan, DS Pandian, George Cumming and Dicky Chong. All these boys were School Champion Athletes in their time. The tradition continued through to 1964 when our school team which included Karu Selvaratnam , become national champions in this event. In the mid-1960s, another strong 4×400 meters relay team comprising, amongst others, Madiyazhagan, Kok Thong Choo and PS Theymudu, won honours at State Schools level.
Some ACS teams also achieved “Firsts” outside of the national level which was celebrated because of its rarity. Among them was the 1966 School Cricket Team which won the coveted Queen’s Dragoons Guards’ Shield for the very first time. The Shield represented cricket supremacy amongst Perak State Schools. This achievement was all the more significant because our main rivals in Perak included Anderson School, St Michael’s Institution, and the Malay College Kuala Kangsar, who were all traditionally national school cricketing powers. The 1996 team had several combined school players including Malcolm Sweatman, a young Aussie all-rounder who played for the full Perak side and captained the State combined schools team. The school team was captained by Virinder Singh who was also Perak combined schools vice-captain.
Notable Sports Traditions
A review of the School’s sports history would not be complete without a mention of its unique sports tradition and culture. Our tradition of nurturing both mass participation and individual excellence in all fields no doubt contributed to the uniquely rich sports heritage of ACS Ipoh.
One was the tradition of grooming talented sportsmen who also excelled in the non-sports fields. In this mould is Mr MS Manogaran presently a media personality and an icon of the Malaysian stage. Mano also represented the School in several sports: in athletics, basketball, soccer and hockey. Another notable talent is Mr Eddy Chin who set several school track and field records which has stood the test of time. He is also a well-known classical singer and stage personality performing at the highest national levels.
In our sports annals, the award of Champion Athlete is a prestigious accolade given only to the best overall school athlete for the year. Over the years, famous Champion Athletes have included George Cumming, Dicky Chong and Karu Selvaratnam. Both Mano and Eddy were also champion athletes in the most senior grouping of boys. There were other notable Champion Athletes who also excelled in other sports: Woo Kwong Kee (1966 joint) in basketball; P S Theymudu (1964-66) in football, who also played hockey for school and state. MS Madiyazhagan, Mano’s brother, another Champion Athlete (1968) was also into school hockey and football. Su Jee Fun girl’s Champion Athlete (1966) was also a school hockey player.
Many who excelled at Sports, also did well in academics. They went on to become high achievers in various positions of leadership. This List includes Prof Thong Saw Pak, the nation’s first Olympian, latterly Dean of Science and Professor of Physics at the University of Malaya. Mr Maurice Baker, a school javelin champion, subsequently turned scholar and achieved fame in the Singapore diplomatic service. Tan Sri Cecil Abraham, currently a leading lawyer, was vice-captain of the school cricket team. Another cricketer and Head Boy, Mr Stanley Kuppusamy, rose to hold a senior management position in SIA. Arthur Reynolds, a prominent athlete, became a senior captain in MAS. Mr Yap Teong Aun, Head Boy and sportsman, who captained the school and combined schools cricket teams and who also played hockey for school, became a senior Public Works Department Engineer. Dato Dr Sushil Kumar, a Colombo Plan scholar and today a well-known dermatologist, represented the school in hockey and cricket. Mr Chin Yoong Fee who was a swimming champion in school and active on the school stage later became a successful lawyer and member of the Perak State Legislative Assembly. Dato Kong Cho Ha, a Horley Hall boarder and School Basket Ball player, is now a Cabinet Minister.
Our lady alumni were equally accomplished. Ms Olivia Teoh Kim Chuan was a school champion athlete besides being a school netball and table tennis player. A scholar, she won a Federal bursary to study at the University of Malaya. Ms Teoh later became a distinguished teacher at the ACS Ipoh. Ms Foo Nyuk Yong, who was Deputy Head Prefect, also captained our Girls Table Tennis Team and represented the school in other sports as well. She was also an accomplished actress on the stage. She won a Federal Scholarship to study at the University of Malaya. Ms Premila Joshi, who was Deputy Head Prefect, also represented the School in athletics and the State in hockey. She later had a successful career in MAS and also became a well-known corporate trainer. More recently, Olympic Swimmer Ms Ong Mei Lin won a scholarship to prestigious Stanford University.
Another great tradition of ACS Ipoh sports was its egalitarian and all inclusive culture. Whilst talented sportsmen were groomed to give off their individual best, participation in sports activities was extended to the student body at large through their affiliation with Houses. Every student could contribute points which in aggregate determined the overall Champion House. In promoting sports ACS Ipoh helped to create in its students a fiercely competitive streak and passion for excellence after leaving school.
Our active sports culture instilled in many Old Salts the qualities of discipline, courage, endurance and adventure. Thus it is no surprise that many Old Salts served in our Security Forces. Some were active sportsmen in School whilst others benefitted from the ACS Ipoh system of emphasising both academic and sports development. In this context,amongst the most distinguished of our Old Salts was Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Khan who later became minister in the first national Cabinet. He was previously, a Captain in the FMS Volunteers. A pioneer in the Army was Major Veerapen who earlier in 1936 had anchored a crack School relay team which emerged champions in a national meet. Others joined the Police. Tan Sri Khaw Kai Boh rose to head the Singapore Special Branch, then joined politics and became a member of the Malaysian Cabinet. Tan Sri Koo Chong Kong rose to become Chief Police Officer of Perak.
Old salts who joined the Armed Forces included national hurdler Lt Commander Karu Selvaratnam and Commanders Ong Lam Seng (who played basketball for school) and Chow Yue Weng who joined the early batches of the RMN. Yet others became pioneer RMAF officers and this group included the likes of Brigadier-General Samuel Welch, Squadron Leader Danny Doong and Lt Colonel Leong Pook Seong.
Interestingly, the school’s policy of immersing the wider student body in sports also produced some leaders in sports and sports management at the national level. One of them was Tan Sri, Dato Darshan Singh Gill, Life President of the Malaysian National Cycling Federation, who was also named Timesports Man of the Year in 1987.
Formula for Success
Many would consider the school’s Golden Years of the 60’s as also a sports phenomenon. However, there is no quick fix formula for replicating such success. To create such a successful and winning sports ecosystem, several factors have to be in place.
As a Mission School, the missionary zeal in promoting passion in all school activities was an underlying contributory factor. Another key factor was support by the school leadership for sports. There would not be such a rich sporting tradition in the absence of visionary leaders to provide the strategy and execution of winning sports programmes.
Evidently, from the early years, sports and studies were emphasized in tandem. Such commitment began as early as the Horley era (1895-1928) with the school memorial gymnasium built in1925. It continued during the Ho Seng Ong era (1946-1948) when the school field was extended. In the Kesselring era (1948-1957), just after World War 2, Mr Kesselring managed to have the Thomas Cup “visit” ACS Ipoh in 1949 serving both to inspire and to celebrate the contributions of student Teoh Seng Khoon, a member of the victorious team.
In the mid-1960s, Mr Teerath Ram raised the status of sports in the school. That Mr Ram was a sportsman certainly helped in this regard. His hands-on, active leadership, in school sports led to ACS Ipoh becoming a recognised power in various school sports. The “Teerath Ram” era probably represented the golden age of ACS Ipoh sports where the massive improvement in sports facilities and, more importantly, the emergence of great coaches, helped to achieve his vision.
Mr Ram’s formula for success included using the school media to drive performance amongst sportspersons and support from the wider student body. In this regard he was helped by stalwarts like Mr Jamit Singh, a great school teacher and communicator and a gem of a man. I recall fondly his contributions. As master in charge of Berita ACS, Mr Jamit Singh showed unparalleled dedication and commitment to the overall cause. Success came when ACS Ipoh emerged champions in the 1966 Methodist Festival of Sports. Beating the mighty ACS Singapore overall was satisfaction enough but defeating their much vaunted swimming squad, the de-facto national team, was elation. The Berita ACS recorded it as one of Mr Ram’s proudest moments as Principal. Behind Mr Ram’s beam was the hidden message that even underdogs can win, if they try hard enough.
Success in sports management necessitates a supporting cast of passionate coaches. It was primarily through the efforts of such coaches that ACS Ipoh developed formidable teams in several sports. Mr Brian Foenander was instrumental in making ACS Ipoh a hockey power amongst Malaysian Schools. For sustainable success in hockey, Mr Foenander, with the active support of Mr Ram, developed a system for scouting, introducing and nurturing fresh young talent. Youngsters such as Poon Fook Loke and Azraai Zain were nurtured in this way and both went on to become national stars. Mr Foenander also managed the juniors, the talented ones eventually nurtured to fill the senior teams. He was later to mentor many national players, including Len Oliveiro. Our success in hockey could also be traced to the excellent coaches we had, even at the primary school level. Famous coaches like Dato R Yogeswaran (national coach) and Mr Sarjit Singh (fondly called KichiBai), both internationals, were active teacher coaches in ACS Ipoh Primary School in the 1960s.
Cricket was another sport which blossomed due to the dedication of coaches. Through excellent coaching, Mr Chet Singh was inspirational in bringing the best out of cricketers. A former captain of the North Malaya Hockey team, Mr Singh brought national level sports training methods to the team. Through intensive training, especially in fielding, the coach moulded the team into state champions in 1966. Mr Chet Singh’s methods also nurtured young talents many of whom went on to play for Perak Combined Schools and the full State side.
As a school imbued with maritime lore (Voyager, old salts, etc.), it was perhaps fitting that the greatest success story of ACS Ipoh’s sports was Aquatics. After the school pool was built in 1962, the School never relinquished the state school’s title for the next six years or so. More importantly, it helped produced numerous national swimmers some of whom became Olympians. Excellent coaches in Mr Oh Boon Lian and Mr Lee Chong Lay laid the foundations for success. Both were elevated to coach at National level. Cheah Tong Kim, Colin Clark and Tsang Hing Chau were all national swimmers with Tong Kim an Olympian. Aw Kong Joun represented the country in water polo against Singapore. It is commendable that till this day, ACS Ipoh continues to have Combined Schools and State level swimmers.
Photo 6: (credit: ACS Ipoh Centernary publication ): ACS Ipoh was amongst the first schools to have its own School swimming in 1962.
A “secret weapon” of ACS Ipoh was Horley Hall. The cream of young sporting talent throughout the country could be attracted and housed in this historic boarding Hall. Besides hockey, Athletics and Basketball were other programs which benefitted from the presence of boarders. PS Theymudu excelled in hockey whilst Woo Kwong Kee set the state high jump record. Kwong Kee and Yeo Choon Tian also played basketball for State and Combined Schools. Another positive spinoff of Horley Hall was the facilities it provided for the continuous physical training of boarders, many of whom became the mainstay of school teams. It was a veritable 24 by 7 centralised training camp.
Overall, the excellent sports facilities contributed immensely to the school’s success in sports, with its three playing fields, nets for cricket practice, basketball, tennis and badminton courts. Ours was one of the first schools in the country to have a pool (Photo 6). In later years, an indoor stadium, Dewan Teerath Ram (Photo 7), was constructed providing a magnificent indoor venue for various sports.
Photo 7 (Credit: ACS Ipoh Centenary publication): The School’s indoor stadium provides excellent indoor sports facilities. It was was one of many buildings built during the stewardship of Mr. Teerath Ram.
Celebrating Diversity through Sports
The school’s constructed sports ecosystem was for many generations a fertile nurturing ground for all sportsmen, notwithstanding their class, colour or creed. A key factor for such success was the School practice of embracing diversity in its student body, its teaching staff, and in sports.
Diversity was reflected firstly in coaches who were of multi-racial background, selected primarily for their talent. Besides all the aforementioned coaches, Encik Shahruddin was School Football coach. We even had the benefit of national coaches from outside the School. Mr R Suppiah trained the 1966 and 1967 track teams. In Diving, Mr R Okada from Japan, a double gold medallist in the 1962 Asian Games, stayed in Horley Hall and coached ACS Ipoh divers.
In its time, ACS Ipoh’s multi-racial team of coaches and sportspersons came from the Malaysian Sikh, Eurasian, Malay, Chinese and Indian communities. By blending the available talent into successful teams, the coaches were “colour blind” in forging the unity, team spirit, discipline and quest for excellence in everything they pursued. Thus a culture was created which helped alumni to excel in later life by adjusting seamlessly to a world becoming more multi-cultural by the day.
Importantly, that culture also equipped students with an understanding of national unity. Mr Brian Foenander, Horley Hall Master and School Discipline Teacher, recalls how boys from all Malaysian communities lived, studied and played together in Horley Hall. The result, Mr Foenander maintains, was real bonding with ties built at school remaining intact till this day. ACS Ipoh was probably the only premier school the country, besides the RMC, which provided facilities for all the races to interact so closely.
Those participants in ACS Ipoh sports activities would likely recall with fondness the punishing training regime they were subjected to from coaches of various ethnicities. For instance, the team accepted and learnt from the criticism of the football coach, who is Malay. “Play On! Don’t Appeal! Play to the whistle!” drummed into our ears by a Eurasian disciplinarian hockey coach, only steeled us to play on with greater determination. We endured the merciless training under the hot mid-day sun from the Sikh Cricket Master. Admittedly, there was every temptation to just walk away to the cool and inviting shade of the Tembusu trees nearby, but we persevered. Despite adversity we performed, otherwise we faced being dumped out altogether.
It is clear the real battle in school then, as in general life today, is not amongst us as members of different communities. Sports teach us to pool our strengths to meet the common “enemy” out there. Sports certainly provide lessons for all Malaysians to cooperate given the common challenges faced in a fast globalising world. My own recollection is that ACS Ipoh practised the One Malaysia credo with success, unlike today when it remains within the domain of spin doctors. Having tasted the sweet fruits of such cooperation in school, hopefully, as a nation, we will go on to practice what we preach.
And the Future?
Despite our obvious success in the past, will the rich sports heritage of ours continue to flourish in the future? In an era where entire tracts of school land in urban areas, including playing fields, are privatised and converted into shopping centres, is it little wonder that sports activities in schools nationwide have markedly declined? Exceptions may be the fully residential schools, funded by Government. But surely other schools like ours, with a proven track record in academics and sports, can help to breed the kind of leaders the country so desperately needs.
In ACS Ipoh, there has indeed been talk of the visible decline in our great sports tradition. Whilst we do occasionally produce talents at combined schools level, there has been an obvious dearth of Olympians and world cuppers since 1984. One given reason has been the emergence of the dedicated Sports Schools at National level and Schools of Excellence in individual sports at State level. The closure of Horley Hall is also viewed as a contributory factor.
If sports in ACS Ipoh are on a long term decline, it is timely to again recall Wellington’s telling remarks on Eton linking sports and the grooming of leaders. If there is such decline in our Alma Mater, we may fail to groom not just sportspersons but future leaders as well. Significantly, with the cultural diversity in our society, the role of sports in unifying students cannot be overemphasised.
Given our very commendable past track record in sports which complemented performance on both the academic and extra-curricular fronts, the powers-that-be may want to review ACS Ipoh’s sports development practices to introduce for wider usage. In its heyday, with relatively modest investment, ACS Ipoh was able to develop talents who were able to compete at every level of the playing field, even the highest at the Olympics. These sports personalities brought prestige and fame not just to the school alone but also to the nation at large.
In emphasising sports ACS should not fall into the trap of becoming the kind of “football school” found in America’s deep-south, where dubious sports scholarships are given to boost their sports rankings. ACS Ipoh should, instead, strive to pattern itself of the Ivy League where sports excellence complements and spurs scholastic excellence. This is surely the way forward. The great educational institutions and sporting traditions of the world all pursue these dual goals in seeking to produce leaders. Witness the Rhodes Scholarships, the Oxbridge Boat Race, the Army-Navy Football Game between West Point and Annapolis and the Harvard-Yale Football games.
Given the times, it may be relevant to conclude as we started by referring to the visit of the great Jesse Owens to Ipoh on that historic day in 1956. At school, the sports legend addressed the debating society and inspired the students gathered with his tales of perseverance and grit amidst adversity. Interestingly, in turn, Owens was impressed with the election of minorities as leaders in our very own debating society.
Through the years, Jesse Owens created history by using his talent and achievements in sports to help breakdown the rampant racism and discrimination around the world. Thanks to efforts of men like him and the closer human interaction brought about by sports and the new media of late, the world has become a better place. The role of sports in building multi-racial ties and in breaking down barriers in our own country should not be underestimated.
We should start to re-strengthen national unity and goodwill by building multi-racial sports activities in schools, to the levels of old. The participation of all students in as many sports as possible will help create the ties that bind amongst the races, even in adversity. The nurturing of excellence in sports will help create iconic role models for all students to identify with in schools. Premier schools should be encouraged to revive their traditional fierce but sporting rivalry to build team spirit and leadership. Given its heritage and track record, ACS Ipoh should be amongst the leaders in this endeavour. Hopefully, all teachers and alumni will rally to this worthy endeavour. In the process, we can help ACS Ipoh regain its status as a premier school replete with a great tradition of excellence both in scholarship and in sports.
Contributor: Narayanan Kanan
(Attended ACS Ipoh from 1964 to 1967. Cohort: 1967 Form 6 Upper Arts A)
1 March 2012