“My wife made me this shirt; I wear it on special occasions”
This post is also available in: Malay
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.
This is a piece I wrote after Mr Tan passed away in 2015. A tribute to Mr Tan Kim Bee