For our fourth segment in the Zeemart Inspirational Champions Series, we were graced by the presence of Singapore’s 100m record holder, U.K. Shyam. Shyam is a multiple medal winner for both individual and relay events. However, his path has never been easy. Shyam gave us an insight into his life as he achieved fame, moved our hearts with his awe-inspiring story, and taught us the importance of chasing our dreams.
He began by showing us a video depicting his life. His life story began as a young child from a poor and tumultuous background. As a child, Shyam grew up fascinated by how runners seemed to move with such grace and power. Not long after, running became an escape for him. It very soon transformed into his passion and purpose for many years to come. Shyam revealed that he still feels the loss of running, years after his retirement from the sprinting world.
Shyam mentioned several ‘guardian angels’ who came to his aid when he needed it most. Two such angels are Mr C Kunalan and Mr Ang Peng Siong.
Mr C Kunalan was the previous 100m national record holder. Shyam’s relationship with C Kunalan, as he recalled, is one he always cherished. His support and Shyam’s drive to eventually break his mentor’s record, is a memory both of them fondly remember, and one that brought a smile to all of our faces. Shyam soon did exactly what he promised in the August of 2001, during the World University Games in Beijing, where he clocked a timing of 10.37s.
Mr Ang Peng Siong was a former national swimmer and when Shyam was at his lowest point, gave him the support that he needed. Mr Ang created a job just for Shyam. This gave him a sense of responsibility and financial stability, which he says, was important for his growth and is what encouraged Shyam to keep training.
As Shyam grew older, he faced even more hurdles between lacking fundings from Singapore Amateur Athletic Association (SAAA) to bad press that fed on the trope of an egoistic athlete with an attitude problem. His story continued with more ups and downs. He won many more medals, but his conflict with SAAA never ended. Eventually, a victim of his situation, the athlete stepped down in 2005. All the dreams he had built flickered out. The support of those around him sometimes couldn’t overcome the difficulties he had to face. Shyam told us that he sometimes wonders what would have happened if he accepted an offer to study in the U.S. many years ago. He added that there are many “if’s” in life, but there is no point in dwelling on them.
He found a renewed sense of purpose in philosophy, his major. With his post-grad in education, he now teaches at Hwa Chong Institution. Even if your dreams can’t be reached, it isn't the end of everything. There is always another way to survive.
“We were not meant to give up. If someone blocks your nose, your first instinct would be to open your mouth or move the person's hand away. Even plants, they will find a way out of a box towards a new source of light. We were not programmed to give up,” added Shyam.
U.K. Shyam has released a book that talks about all his challenges and successes. Do check out “Running on Empty: The Story Behind 0.01s” to find out more about this extraordinary man, who despite all odds, chased his dreams.
Check out the highlights of the sharing below!