A tribute to Mr Tan Kim Bee
I first met Mr. Tan Kim Bee in 2013 when I was looking for subjects for my book. I wanted a mix of cultures and races and Mr Tan and his wife being Peranakan were perfect. They were also the parents of my writer, Tan Joo Lee.
On the day of the interview, I visited Mr Tan and his wife at their home in Bukit Damansara. Little did I know I would sit there mesmerised as he spoke of his life including how he met his wife. His account of his time representing Malaysia in bodybuilding was particularly memorable.
It was a privilege to listen to his stories firsthand.
Last month, I learnt that Mr Tan had passed away so I attended the wake at his home. Seeing Mr Tan lying there in his favourite shirt brought back such memories of that interview and the photography session after. I will always remember his stories but most of all, his favourite shirt made by his wife, which he always wore on special occasions.
May you rest in peace, Mr Tan. Thank you for enriching the lives of so many people.
Below is Mr Tan’s page from the book, the copy written by his daughter, Tan Joo Lee. This is followed by a tribute from the Olympic Council of Malaysia.
Mr Tan and Madam Cheah both have Peranakan backgrounds. Mr Tan’s roots are in Melaka while Madam Cheah’s are in Penang. They met the old-fashioned way. His mother put the word out that he was ready to settle down and a relative came back with news of a suitable girl from a good family.
Mr Tan laughed when he admitted that his wife had not heard of him before they met. However, this was the 1950s so it is understandable that not everyone would have known that he had represented Malaya in weightlifting at a number of international meets.
Mr Tan’s first international competition was the 1950 Empire Games which was held in New Zealand. He won the bronze medal in the lightweight category.
Subsequently, Mr Tan represented Malaya in the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, placing sixth in the middle heavyweight category, which made him the best performing Malayan at the Games. In 1958, he donned Malaysian colours again for the Asian Games in Tokyo, winning a bronze, as well as the Commonwealth Games in Cardiff, where he took home a silver.
Mr Tan and Madam Cheah got married in 1959. When he was called up for the Rome Olympics in 1960, she was expecting their first child, so he said no. It was time to move on to the next phase in life.
Here’s a video of Mr Tan Kim Bee and his wife, Madam Cheah being photographed at their home.
11-November-2015 – Tribute from The Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM)
The Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) and its affiliates wish to express their deepest condolences to the family of the late Mr. Tan Kim Bee, who passed away peacefully on 2nd November 2015, at the age of 86 years.
The late Mr. Tan Kim Bee represented Malaysia in Weightlifting at the Auckland 1950 British Empire Games, where he won a bronze medal. He participated at the Melbourne 1956 Olympic Games where he was the Flag Bearer. He competed in Weightlifting and finished in 6th position. At the Tokyo 1958 Asian Games, he won a bronze medal, which remained the only medal in Weightlifting won by Malaysia at the Asian Games. He also won a silver medal at the 1958 British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Cardiff, Wales.
The late Mr. Tan Kim Bee was an elite athlete who also excelled in studies. He graduated as a Mining Engineer from Dunedin University under a Federal Scholarship in 1956. After graduation, he joined the Mines Department Malaysia and retired as its Director General in 1984.
Photograph shows the late Mr. Tan Kim Bee with members of the Weightlifting team at the Auckland 1950 British Empire Games. From left, the late Mr. Tho Fook Hung (gold medal), the late Mr. Koh Eng Tong (gold medal), Professor Thong Saw Pak (silver medal), and the late Mr. Tan Kee Bee (bronze medal).