Passages: Lim Heng Chek, First Malaysian Olympic Swimmer, 85

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Photo Courtesy: Competitor

Lim Heng Chek, a pioneering swimmer for Malaysia who was one of the nation’s first two Olympians in 1956, died on May 15. He was 85 years old.

Lim, along with Fong Seow Hor, represented what was then the Federation of Malaya at the 1956 Games at the Melbourne Games. (The Federation of Malaya existed from 1948 until 1963 when it became Malaysia; it gained independence from Britain in 1957.) Lim competed in the 100-meter backstroke in Melbourne, finishing seventh in heat four of the prelims and not advancing to the semifinals. His time was 1:12.4.

He participated in the Asian Games in Tokyo in 1958 and Jakarta in 1962. He represented the nation in the 1962 Commonwealth Games in Perth.

One of the highlights of Lim’s career came in the South East Asian Games, where he won gold in the men’s 100 backstroke and men’s 100 butterfly at the 1959 edition in Bangkok. He also won a silver medal in 1961 in the 100 back in Yangon.

Lim retired in 1962. He remained active as a coach from 1964-79 with the Selangor swimming team as well as the national team. He also served as honorary secretary and vice president of the Amateur Swimming Union of Malaysia. Lim was inducted to the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) Hall of Fame in 2013.

“He was a very disciplined swimmer and trained regularly at Victoria Institution and later at the Chin Woo swimming pool,” fellow hall of famer Datuk A. Vaithilingam told The Star. “I was fortunate to have Heng Chek as a swimming technical chairman in the MSS Selangor for quite some time. He helped to train more teachers to be coaches. It is sad to note that Heng Chek, who belonged to a legendary family, is no more with us. May Almighty God Bless his soul.”

“The late Lim Heng Chek was a great athlete who had participated in all four major multi-sport Games under the jurisdiction of Federation of Malaya Olympic Council (FMOC), namely the Olympic Games, British Empire and Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and South-East Asian Peninsular (Seap) Games,” the OCM said in a statement posted on their Facebook page.