A History of the V.I. Sports Meet

by Loh Kok Kin

VI Sports Day



aster, Higher, Stronger compels the Olympic aspirant to push his human limits for greater improvement. Alternately, for those outside the limelight of sporting prowess, the playing field also has a place for them. Sportsmanship transcends victory; it is larger than just the gold medal. As the Father of the Modern Olympics, Pierre de Coubertin, exhorted: "You play not just for yourself, but for the greater glory of the sport...". Two years after the inaugural modern Olympics in Athens, these ideals must have inspired the visionary Mr Bennett Shaw to commence a great V.I. tradition - Sports Day. It was the first school Athletic Sports Day in Kuala Lumpur.

Mr Shaw was educated at the famous King’s College School, London and Oxford University, and later taught at High School, Bishop Stortford. The ideals of the English public school must have reinforced his personal conviction to drive his idea of the V.I. Sports Day for he strongly believed in the importance a well-rounded education. He recommended that parents encouraged their sons "to join in the School games which were carried out under the supervision of the masters in the grounds of the Institution". When he authored the Education Code for Selangor in 1895, he entrenched among its objects, the goal "to encourage the teaching of drawing, recitation, physical exercises and elementary science". At Mr Shaw’s retirement, reports by the Chief Secretary of the Federated Malay States Government and the Selangor Inspector of Schools waxed lyrical about Mr Shaw’s efforts. "His aim was that the Victoria Institution should provide a real education and not a mere class instruction", wrote the Chief Secretary. Echoing those sentiments, the Inspector reported that "(Mr Shaw) was a firm believer in all round education as opposed to the literary education which has been the ideal in certain other of the Eastern dependencies".

January 1898. Just four years before, the V.I. had opened its doors with a mere 150 pupils and only four masters assisting Mr Shaw. Who would have guessed that four years hence, the fledgling School could have organised the spectacle that was the first Annual Athletic Meet? The highest British officer of the Federated Malay States, Acting Resident-General Mr William Hood Treacher, had been invited to grace the event. But he was ill and could not attend. Nonetheless, the event was not short of dignitaries. Mrs Belfield, the wife of the British Resident of Selangor, gave away the prizes. Twenty events were held, and Messrs R. F. Stainer and A.C.J. Towers served as handicappers and starters. Thus began a great tradition.

Befitting a premiere school Sports Meet, people from all around the town would turn up to watch the annual event. The press also took a keen interest. The Malay Mail of 3 December 1908 records that the V.I. Sports Day saw the following events:


100 yards (Under 8, Under 12, Under 15)

220 yards (Handicap under 12, Handicap)

200 yards (Over 15)

Relay race

Hurdle race

High jump (Under 15, Over 15)

Long jump (Over 15, Under 15)

Dribbling the ball

Sack race

Potato race

Tug of war

Victoria Cross race

Old Boys’ race

Confucian race

Consolation race

Display of gymnastics, rifle drill, dumb-bell drill, wand drill and club swinging

Unlike later years, these early categories of events appear rather haphazard. Perhaps a system of classifying boys was near impractical, as the 500 or so V.I. pupils then aged from as young as 6 to as old as 19, a stipulation of the Selangor Government Gazette 1894 rules, which governed the V.I.’s policies. The unsystematic classification could also have been because rewarding competitiveness was deemed less important than allowing all boys to participate in some way or another. This could also be the rationale for the events like sack race and potato race, which, under today’s competitive conditions, would be classified as ‘novelty events’. To emphasise the value of participation, in 1906, musical drills were introduced as another feature of Sports Day. Events such as wand drills and dumb-bell drills were mass parades of coordinated movement and energetic actions.

Eventually, Mr Shaw organised the boys into five Houses. These Houses were classified according to colours. When Mr Richard Sidney took over the headmastership in 1923, he commented that the Houses should be more personalised by being named after famous people.

So boys were allotted to the sports Houses, now numbering ten, according to the last digit of the boy’s School number:

  0

Nugent-Walsh

  5

Treacher

  1

Thamboosamy

  6

Loke Yew

  2

Rodger

  7

Steve Harper

  3

Hepponstall

  8

Shaw

  4

Yap Kwan Seng

  9

Davidson



By personalising the House names, boys could develop attachment and loyalty, and thus the House system could promote healthy rivalry, team spirit and a chivalrous attitude in games. The number of Houses varied over the years, and some names were changed.

Antagonistic competitiveness was not condoned. The inter-House rivalry was very much of a British character, where demeanour, wit and restraint went a long way. Only much later did the American brand of sporting fervour - candid, vociferous, flamboyant - infuse the V.I. traditions as well as elsewhere, including Britain itself. An example of how the V.I. adopted English public school ideals of sportsmanship was in the way each House exhorted its members to do their best. Some expressions were poetic, such as Shaw House's:

So this is nineteen twenty-five!
Let’s therefore one and all strive
To bring much honour and great glory
To our House, hard tho’ our work may be.
and that of Loke Yew House: Show us the mettle of your pasture, brothers;
Let ‘DO OUR BEST’ our motto be
Let’s hold on - with fierce tenacity
of the octopus - the shield that is ours.
High Jump 1923

The razzmatazz of the proceedings of Sports Day, plus the House spirit that swelled with the event, made the V.I. boys highly enthusiastic as the event loomed on the School calendar. Conveying that excitement is this poem, composed by Chan Ping Hung of the Lower School, which was published in the first edition of the Victorian 1923:

On the field and in the class where boys stay,
They thought of nothing but Sports Day,
On that day all the V.I. boys are looking gay,
Because it was their school’s birthday.

This year the Sports falls on a Tuesday,
And there are many good races such as relay,
On that night there will be a Malay Play,
After all this the school will break up for its holiday.

In conjunction with the thirtieth anniversary of the School on 14 August, Sports Day was held in the day, followed by the first publicly-staged V.I. play, Chitra Raja Besi. The Meet was graced by the Sultan of Selangor. Even when the rain came and marred the show at 5 p.m., spirits were high. Only the physical drill and Morris dance had to be abandoned. A Miss Hose distributed the prizes in the Headmaster’s House at 6 p.m. Events held during that 1923 Sports Day were:


100 yards (8-12, Under 15, Open)

220 yards (8-12, Under 15, Open)

440 yards (Open)

Half mile (Open)

Long jump (Under 15, Open)

High jump (Under 15, Open)

Hurdles (Open)

Sack race (Open)

Musical chairs (Open)

Relay race

Tug-o-war

Wheelbarrow race (Open)

Four-legged race

Throwing the cricket ball

Old Boys’ races (100 yards, 220 yards, 220 yards for Over 30, Half mile)

More systematic than before, the division of events saw three categories, namely, ages 8-12, Yap Fatt Yew Trophy under 15 and Open divisions. After the V.I. divested the Infant School following the move to Petaling Hill in 1929, the age categories changed again. Over time, these age brackets were modified to take into account weight, height and age, before settling on the present one-Form-one-category system.

A major tradition was initiated in the 1923 Sports Day. Mr Yap Fatt Yew, who was not an Old Boy but had contributed immensely towards the V.I.O.B.A. building in 1922, donated a perpetual trophy for the House Championship. This Yap Fatt Yew Trophy was to be awarded to the House with the most marks in the Athletic Meet. In 1925, the V.I. General Sports Committee revamped the rules and regulations for many of the School’s sports trophies, including the Yap Fatt Yew trophy. The aggregate marks were to be tallied from the following events:


             EVENT

  Marks

             EVENT

  Marks

100 yards (Open)

5 (first)
2 (second)
1 (third)

110 yards (Competitors under 15)

4 (first)
2 (second)

220 yards (Open)

5 (first)
2 (second)
1 (third)

220 yards (Competitors under 15)

4 (first)
2 (second)

440 yards (Open)

5 (first)
2 (second)
1 (third)

Long jump (Competitors under 15)

4 (first)
2 (second)

880 yards (Open)

5 (first)
2 (second)
1 (third)

High jump (Competitors under 15)

4 (first)
2 (second)

Hurdle race (Open)

5 (first)
2 (second)
1 (third)

House relay race

5 (first)
2 (second)
1 (third)

Long jump (Open)

5 (first)
2 (second)
1 (third)

Tug-of-war

5 (first)
2 (second)

High jump (Open)

5 (first)
2 (second)
1 (third)

   

In 1925, the novelty events – obstacle races, throwing the cricket ball, musical chairs, blindfold race, football race, band race, potato race, centipede race, sake race, wheelbarrow race, cadet boot race and four-legged race – were still held but winning these events did not contribute marks towards the Yap Fatt Yew trophy.

Prestigious as it is, some have nonetheless argued over whether that trophy is more significant than the Thamboosamy Trophy. The Thamboosamy Trophy - donated in 1923 by Mr Ganapathy Pillay, the son of Mr Thamboosamy Pillay - was awarded to the House that had gained the highest cumulative marks in all sports held in the year, such as cricket, football and athletics. However, since the late 1990’s, this debate has become merely academic as inter-House games ceased, and so the Thamboosamy Trophy has since been shelved. There were also other trophies for the Athletic Meet, such as the M. Cumarasamy Trophy for the Victor Ludorum (the senior champion athlete) and the Choo Kia Peng Trophy for the junior champion athlete. These trophies date back to at least 1923.

Indian Clubs

So what were Sports Days like? In the 1920’s and 1930’s, they were usually held over two days, commencing at 4.00 p.m. each day. A glimpse into a typical Sports Day is offered by the Victorian 1923:"Preparations commenced on the afternoon of the day previous, and the morning of the 14th of August 1923 saw the grounds and buildings gorgeously decorated with streamers, flags and buntings. Refreshment rooms were run by the Malay, Chinese, Indian and the Cambridge Boys, who supplied sweet drinks, ices and cakes to their members and their friends. Arrangements had been made before hand with the Government, the Railway Department, and also with the heads of practically all the firms in town to allow the old Victorians to leave their offices early in the afternoon to enable them to take part in the sports. It was a reunion day and many were the old familiar faces seen in the Old Boys’ pavilion".

Luminaries such as the British Residents and their spouses, and the Selangor Royal Family were invariably the guests of honour at the annual event, while other guests included headmasters and headmistresses from around the town.

Preparations for the Meet started long before the event. Boys were encouraged to attend training sessions conducted by House Masters. Several friends of the School also helped to coach the senior boys. One of them was Mr Hugh F Clancy, who lent his expertise in 1940. Mr Clancy had set the long jump record for Malaya in 1932, and played hockey and rugger for various states. In 1949, he became the headmaster of the Methodist Boys’ School. Competitiveness aside, there was a separate contest for non-competitive events, confusingly called the Inter-House Relay Races Competition. The events, including but not just team relays, were contested with no prizes given. It allowed athletes to warm-up for Sports Day. However, it was by no means a lacklustre event. The Competition had marching parades and competitors dressed in their respective House colours. Nevertheless, this was an event outside the Athletics Meet proper.

Participation in the Athletic Meets over the years, though commendable, still had room for improvement. Recognising that many boys were probably deterred by the intense competition, the School introduced the Qualifying Rounds in 1939, which was the predecessor of today’s Standard Sports or Datar Layak. Previously, boys raced each other for just three medals per event, and only the medallists would have scored points for their Houses. Now, boys raced to beat the clock and the measure tape, and they scored one point for every event where they succeeded, except for the mile. The following table notes the events and standards required in 1939 (the same requirements essentially applied in 1949, without the mile run):


 

Class I

Class II

Class III

1 Mile

6 m 15 secs (5 points)
6 m 45 secs (3 points)

6 m 15 secs (5 points)
6 m 45 secs (3 points)

N/A

880 yards

2 m 52 secs

3 m 2 secs

N/A

440 yards

72 secs

74 secs

80 secs

220 yards

30 secs

32 secs

34 secs

High Jump

4 ft 4 inches

4 ft 1 inch

3 ft 6 inches

Long Jump

15 ft

14 ft

11 ft 6 inches

With this innovation to the Athletic Meet point system, the Victorian 1939 noted that "the winning of the Yap Fatt Yew Cup depended not on the efforts of a few athletes but on the efforts of the House as a whole... Never before has such as large number of boys taken part in our School Athletics". Evincing the capability of the V.I. boys, 74% of the boys who took part in 1939 earned points for their Houses.

Wartime saw classes suspended, and so, too, the V.I. Sports Day. In the 1940 Sports Day, the School had to economise on expenditure, and so no invitation cards or programmes were printed. Money saved was contributed to the F.M.S. War Fund. Instead, the Science Department duplicated the programmes on its own; the results earned much praise. Parents, Old Boys and well-wishers were invited through the press. Even so, the crowd counted among them 1954 Champions the Sultan of Selangor, the Tengku Ampuan (who distributed the prizes) and Major G.M. Kidd, the Resident of Selangor. The Selangor Royalty were frequently invited as Guests of Honour and gave away the prizes at the V.I. Athletic Meets, but the invitations ceased when Kuala Lumpur was ceded from Selangor to become a Federal Territory in February 1972.

The first Athletic Meet after the war was held in 1947, and since then, has been held annually without fail, except in 1969 and 1998. The format of the immediate post-war Athletic Meets were similar to pre-war Meets. They were two day events, usually commencing at 4.00 p.m. Also, they were often struck by the same ill luck that plagued many pre-war Meets, namely, rain. Inclement weather notwithstanding, the performances often reached very high standards. Many of these athletes, such as Lim Hock Han and Ronald Parry later represented the V.I. and won the All-Malayan Schoolboys’ Championships. Unfortunately, after the war, many challenge trophies were discovered to have been plundered and the likes of Siew Nim Chee (now Dato') went about soliciting donations for replacements. Besides athletic contests, there were other events such as the Scout competitions during the Meets. These involved challenges like pioneering, blindfold knot-tying and First Aid. As former Scout Masters Mr Chin Peng Lam and Mr Chan Bing Fai recall, Second KL often emerged first while Fourth KL consoled themselves with the wooden spoon.


Sports Day Panorama - Pre-1956 1950 Sports Day Panorama

In 1952, competition was split into five divisions. The following table of requirements was produced for the Qualifying Rounds of 1953. Standards were certainly higher than previously. Probably this was because each class now only had students of a more specific age, allowing requirements to be specifically tailored to their capabilities. Previously, the broad age range in a particular class meant that requirements had to be adjusted to suit the younger ages in each class.


 

Class I

Class II

Class III

Class IV

Class V

220 yards

28 secs

29 secs

30 secs

33 secs

N/A

440 yards

68 secs

71 secs

74 secs

80 secs

N/A

880 yards

2 m 45 secs

2 m 50 secs

3 m

N/A

N/A

High Jump

4 ft 7 inches

4 ft 4 inches

4 ft

3 ft 6 inches

3 ft

Long Jump

15 ft 9 inches

15 ft

14 ft

12 ft 3 inches

11 ft

Pole Vault

7 ft 6 inches

7 ft

6 ft 6 inches

N/A

N/A

Hop, Step, Jump

32 ft

31 ft

28 ft

24 ft

20 ft

Discus

60 ft (adult size)

61 ft (junior size)

62 ft (youth size)

N/A

N/A

Javelin

70 ft (adult size)

72 ft (youth size)

70 ft (youth size)

N/A

N/A

Shot Putt

25 ft (16 lbs)

26 ft (12 lbs)

25 ft (10 lbs)

25 ft (8 lbs)

N/A


Then came 1956. Under the redoubtable Dr G.E.D. Lewis, the V.I. had overhauled many of its major calendar events such as Speech Day, changes that still substantially govern the form of proceedings at these events to this day. In 1956, Sports Day was another target for reform. The changes were no less than transformations of Olympic proportions. To commence the Meet, there would be a guard of honour for the special guest, usually a Director of Education or a prominent Old Boy such as Lee Kuan Yew, Yaacob Latiff or Tun Omar Yoke-Lin Ong. This was to be followed by an impressive march past of House contingents donning their respective colours, and the guest of honour would take the salute. Leading the parade was the School Athletics Captain with the V.I. flag, followed by the contingent of School athletes (including the finalists in various events) and then the Houses. After the flag raising by the Scouts and the oath taking by the School


The 1956 Grand Opening - the Forerunner of Present Meets Marchpast 1956
Athletics Captain, the Meet was declared open. Meanwhile, lining the edges of the field and facing the Pavilion were the House tents, each decked with brilliant apparel. The novel idea of the House tent competition ensured that the boys were kept away from the main tent and the slopes and were spread evenly around the field. From this Meet on, a prize was awarded to the best decorated tent which was won by Shaw House in 1956. Banners were raised, buntings strung and flags unfurled. In order to impress the judges, the boys stayed back after school before the meet to construct and decorate their tents. They also practised their marching. Thus, non-athletes also became deeply involved and felt a strong enthusiasm for Sports Day.

The Qualifying Rounds, absent in the immediate postwar years, were reintroduced in 1956 and this ensured that every boy, athlete or not, could contribute precious points to his House. Coupled with the Heats that were held before Sports Day, the Qualifying Rounds spurred many Houses to strive to accumulate as many points as possible before the actual Meet. Points from the Cross-Country, held since 1930, were also tallied for the first time in the House scores. Both Heats and Qualifying Rounds were held over much of the second term and culminated in Sports


VIPs Gracing the Meet
VIPS at the Sports
Day which was, since 1956, either in June or July. Before 1956, there were five age classes, but from 1956, there were only three. Many Old Boys returned to coach the VI boys in the Qualifying Rounds and the Heats, such as hurdler Lim Thye Hee, and middle distance runner T. Mahesan. Even Jesse Owens, the four-gold of the 1936 Berlin Olympics, was roped in to coach the V.I. Boys when he visited in 1955. Houses scheduled regular "House Practices" to prep up their members.

Competition was very keen especially in the relays, both inter-House and inter-School. Post-war inter-House relays contributed more points – ten points for first place, five for second and three for third – compared to pre-war relays. Another big crowd drawer was the inter-School relays! Our strongest rivals were the Methodist Boys' School and St John's Institution. From 1957 on there was the FMC (Federation Military College or Maktab Tentera Di-Raja) as a deadlier rival because they had the best athletes joining them from all over the country. Victorians cheered like mad for the School teams, who invariably won. The V.I. sprinters would subsequently go on to garner greater honours in various other inter-School, State and National Meets.

Meet highlights

As is still the tradition at Sports Day today, a pole was erected in the middle of the School field, and on it were hung different coloured balls representing the colours of the Houses, the order reflecting their latest total score. As a house’s fortunes flowed and ebbed in the course of the afternoon, its coloured ball was raised or lowered in relation to the others, accompanied by rousing cheers or groans by the House members. At day’s end, House contingents marched, to the strains of the music by the V.I.C.C. band, towards the main tent in front of the Pavilion and formed a square, where prizes were given away. Unlike previous Meets where only the athletes would converge on this square while other boys milled around on the slopes beside the Pavilion, from 1956 onwards every boy was involved in his House contingent (unless he was a scout or a cadet on duty). Truly, Saturday 14 July 1956 entered the history annals as the Mother of All Meets. The next day, the sports pages of the local papers were filled with praise for that spectacularly innovative meet. Subsequently, many other KL schools began to copy this format as well!

Non-athletic prizes

In Dr Lewis’ address at the end of the 1956 event, he thanked all teachers, especially the veteran Mr Ganga Singh, "for working like Trojans". Notably, Mr Ganga, who had been in the V.I. since his days as a student under Mr Shaw in the 1910’s, had seen the early Athletics Meets (with their novelty events), the inception of the Yap Fatt Yew Trophy, the first Qualifying Rounds and finally, the 1956 reform of proceedings. The V.I. boys, too, had worked very hard for that memorable day. Before the Meet, there were many practices to ensure that march pasts were near military standards, that contingents began their march from their tents and arrived at the guest tent precisely by the final beat of the band music for the prize-giving, and that the flag ceremony, oath and the Last Post were executed without any glitch. Surely, all this is proof enough that the V.I.’s excellence was not just in books and exams!

One pillar of the V.I.’s excellence is the active involvement of Old Boys in the School events. Even in the 1920’s, Sports Days were reunion days for Old Boys. Employers even allowed the Old Boys to leave early from work to attend the Meets! The tradition of reunion continued for many years. The Old Boys also acted happily as umpires and judges. Mr Harry Lau, who

220 interschool relay 1958
studied in the School in the 1930’s and later became a V.I. teacher for many years, was renowned for serving drinks to the Old Boys who adjourned to the V.I.O.B.A. Club House or the V.I. Staff room after the conclusion of Sports Days.

Old Boys also took part in the Old Boys’ races in the Meet. The current 100 metres record for Old Boys was set by Mr Yeoh Cheang Swi, who was a stalwart of the V.I. sprint relay team when he was a student in the late 1940’s and early 50s. Even in the 1980’s this race was still run, and one Old Boy who took part almost every year was Mr Yong Pat Lin, who had studied in the High Street V.I. in the 1920’s! Thanks to the unfailing annual invitation from Mr Sin Ah Tah, the V.I. Sports Secretary from 1975 to 1993, Mr Yong Pat Lin Yong never missed a single Sports Day. Of course this 100 yards/metres race was a handicap race, taking into consideration the various physical conditions of the motley collection of Old Boys, some of whom were literally old men. Captain Shaidali, who attended the V.I. in the 1890s, was another frequent participant in the fifties. One memorable year, he was given a sixty yard handicap when matched against a very fit Yeoh Cheang Swi at that time! Shaidali pipped Cheang Swi to the finish line amidst rapturous applause - everyone knew it wasn’t a real test of sprint prowess, rather, of V.I. sportsmanship! The 100 metres handicap race and the Old Boys tug-of-war (singles versus married) survived until 1993. Today, the sole Old Boys event to survive the test of time is the 4x100 metres relay.

Records have been kept and trophies awarded since at least 1923. However, the records have not been comparable over long periods of time. Firstly, the criteria for dividing of boys into categories have varied over the years as mentioned previously. Secondly, in 1962, the conversion of Imperial system to Metric system measurements meant the records table was wiped clean in one fell swoop. Fortunately, the trophies awarded over the years have been less subject to change. Below are the trophies for specific events and the names of their contributors:


Prewar Event

   Donor

Postwar Event

   Donor

Champion House

Mr Yap Fatt Yew

Champion House

Mr Yap Fatt Yew

Victor Ludorum (Senior Champion Athlete)

Mr M Cumarasamy

Victor Ludorum (Senior Champion Athlete)

Widows of expatriate V.I. staff who died during the war

Junior Champion

Mr Choo Kia Peng

Champion Athlete Class II

Mr M Cumarasamy

100 yards Class I

H.H. The Sultan of Selangor

Champion Athlete Class III

Mr Choo Kia Peng

220 yards Class I

Messrs Cycle and Carriage Co. Ltd.

100 metres Class I

Mr Yong Shook Lin

440 yards Class I

Mr Loke Wan Yat

200 metres Class I

Dr Chua Boon Teck

Half Mile Class I

Mr Tan Chin Wah

400 metres Class I

Mr Loke Wan Yat

Hurdles Class I

Mr W.F.C. Grenier

800 metres Class I

Mr S.M. Yong

Long Jump Class I

The V.I. Tuck Shop

1500 metres Class I

Mr Leong Hoe Yeng

High Jump Class I

1) The Raja Muda of Selangor (early 20’s)
2) Mr Loke Yung Hong

3000 metres Class I

Mr Yong Pat Lin

Throwing the Cricket Ball

1) Mr R.J.H. Sidney  (early 20’s)
2) Mr G.C. Davies

110 metres Hurdles Class I

Mr W.F.C. Grenier

Inter-house Relay

Messrs Swan and Maclaren

Cross Country Run Class I

D.Y.M.M. The Sultan of Selangor

   

Long Jump Class I

Mr Cheong Wing Chan

   

High Jump Class I

Mr Loh Pak Soon

   

Pole Vault Class I

Mr Yong Yuen Chen

   

4x100 metres Inter-house Relay Class I

Mr T.R. Abraham

   

4x400 metres Inter-house Relay Class I

Mr Yong Pat Lin

   

4x100 metres Old Boys v Present Boys

Mr T. Rajendra


The KL press also reported glowingly on the V.I. Athletic Meets from 1956 onwards for many years, printing the detailed results in full!

The participation of girls is commonplace today, unlike in the late 1950’s and 1960’s when it seemed jaw dropping. For instance, the Victorian 1967 carried an article on the girls’ Qualifying Rounds, written by Chew Fei Yin, which began with the words 'What! Qualifying rounds for GIRLS?" - the whole school erupted. The boys shook with incredulous laughter; the girls trembled with awe'. That year, the Qualifying Rounds for the girls, held over three days, comprised of the 100 metres (18 seconds), 200 metres (39 seconds), high jump (3 feet 6 inches), long jump (12 feet) and javelin (60 feet). Eleven girls qualified in all events and thirteen qualified in four events. Girls had been competing in events such as the 100 and 220 yards since the mid-1950's, but only in 1967 were there Qualifying Rounds for them. Besides sporting endeavours, the V.I. girls have also participated actively in House tent construction and march-pasts.

Today, the requirements for the Standard Sports (formerly the Qualifying Rounds) or Datar Layak, including the standards for girls, are as follows :


 

Class 1

Class 2

Class 3

Class 4

Class 5

Girls

100 metres

13.0 secs

13.5 secs

14.0 secs

14.5 secs

15.0 secs

17.5 secs

400 metres

70.0 secs

73.0 secs

76.0 secs

78.0 secs

80.0 secs

-

Shot Putt

8.0 m

7.5 m

7.0 m

6.5 m

6.5 m

3.0 m

Long Jump

4.5 m

4.3 m

4.0 m

4.0 m

3.75 m

-


The number of events has shrunk compared to that previously. This is probably because of the higher enrolment of students in the School, which would certainly cause difficulties in administering the Qualifying Rounds should there be too many events.

The V.I. Sports Meets have not escaped their share of misadventures. The 2001 Meet saw a freak storm sweep across the evening skies during the intermission just as the V.I.C.C. band were doing their customary performance. A boy standing near the Pavilion was struck by lightning and the Meet had to be cancelled, to resume and conclude four days later. Fortunately, the boy survived the ordeal. There have been other scares, such as Mr Siew Nim Chee (now Dato’), the then V.I.O.B.A. President, collapsing after the Old Boys’ tug-of-war in 1991. He stood up a few minutes later, smiling and looking unfazed, to thunderous applause and hearty cheers.

Tug-of-War Events
Tug-of-war

It is a misfortune that the passing of the years has seen some events passing out of favour. In the postwar period, prewar events like throwing the cricket ball and potato race have been scrapped. The display performances like wand drills and dumb-bell swinging are gone too, but these have been replaced by the band performance, taekwondo demonstrations and gymnastics held during the intermissions. In the late 1970's, cost-cutting measures saw the house-tent sheds phased out. The design competition continued nonetheless, with houses building free-standing decorations, which have included a space ship, giant animals and birds, angels and even a bullock cart. Eager to revive the proper house-tent tradition during the Centenary year of 1993, Puan Robeahtun (the then principal) re-introduced the metal sheds for each house to decorate. The tents have remained since.

Other lost traditions have not been so lucky. The Scout events had been phased out in the 1950’s. Perhaps the greatest misfortune is that some sporting events have also been lost in time, such as the pole vault, hurdles and pentathlon. Some of these disappeared in the 1970’s, others much later. It may have been because few teachers had or have the ability to coach the boys in such events. Or perhaps the events were not held for a few years, and after that, interest in them just waned. Whatever the reason, continuity is crucial to maintain traditions. Indeed, this lesson of continuity is important in another context. In the early 1970’s, a misprint in the Sports Day programme led to programmes in subsequent years continuing that error. These misprints have led to the belief that the 100th Sports Day was celebrated in 2003. This is wrong. The 2003 event was only the 99th Sports Day of the V.I.

Sprint Events over the Years
sprint events over the years

Nonetheless, today the excitement that escalates with every V.I. Sports Day is still as strong as it was a century ago. In the first few weeks of the School calendar, House meetings are held to elect leaders and drum up House spirit. This spirit soars a month before the Meet as the Standard Sports are held. House leaders would be frantically chasing down their boys to remind them to bring their sport attire on those days. During the rounds, the field would erupt in raucous shouts as leaders and boys cheer their friends sprinting down the track, leaping across the sand pit or heaving the putt. The frenzy would continue during the Heats, a fortnight or so before Sports Day, to determine which boys make it to the Finals. In fact, many Finals are held before Sports Day; during the actual Meet, besides the tug-of-war Finals, usually only the 100 metres and the 4x100 metre Finals are run.

Then comes the week leading up to Sports Day. Before recess, march-past rehearsals are conducted by the Sports staff. But the real excitement comes after recess, when the students take over. House leaders would be barking commands as their contingents (mainly consisting of junior members) circle the track multiple times, in the hope of perfecting that stride or hand swing. Contingents would try to out-yell each other, and ‘accidental’ skirmishes between two colliding contingents are not rare; "Ouch, he stepped on my foot!" or "He swung his fist into my arm!" are common gripes. With the blazing afternoon sun overhead, woe betide the House that forgets to prepare a pail of cold drink for its members. Meanwhile, back in the classrooms, the other House members would be busily measuring, cutting, sewing and painting paraphernalia for their House tents. This exercise would often continue into the eve before Sports Day, as boys (and sometimes girls) stay overnight in School to complete their design.


sprint 1980

Competition between Houses is intense, though not unhealthy. Yap Kwan Seng (light blue), Treacher (dark blue), Thamboosamy (green), Sultan Abdul Samad (purple), Shaw (red), Rodger (orange), Loke Yew (brown) and Lee Kuan Yew (yellow) all vie for the highest honours. Of late, Lee Kuan Yew house has been particularly successful, having won all V.I. Sports Days from 1995 until the present. This is a new V.I. record of eight consecutive wins, eclipsing the record of Davidson House who had previously won six in a row from 1950 to 1955. Individual athletes, too, strive for laurels. After all, this is an event that has produced the likes of the former Asian sprint king Dato’ Dr Mani Jegathesan (whose 40-year old Malaysian record still stands today!) and legendary hurdler Isthiaq Mubarak.

From the first emphatic blast of the V.I.C.C. band when the guest of honour arrives, to the ponderous Last Post at the setting of the sun, Sports Day is a flurry of activity, an institution steeped in tradition and a link between the present and the past. Ninety-nine times has it been organised, and 2004 will see the hundredth, but never has its aura diminished. V.I. boys and girls are involved, regardless of athletic prowess. Pierre de Coubertin would have been proud that, truly, the V.I. Sports Day does not merely provide for the glory of an individual, but also for the greater glory of the sport. And one might add, in the case of V.I. boys and girls, for the greater glory of the School.

1954 Champions



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Created on July 31, 2003.
Last update on November 23, 2003.

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