Benedict Tan



Singapore Infopedia

by Chua, Alvin

Background

Benedict Tan Chi’ Loong (Dr) (b. 21 November 1967, Singapore–) is a former national sailor who has won gold medals at the Asian Games and Southeast Asian (SEA) Games. He is also a sports medical doctor, president of the Singapore Sailing Federation and former Nominated Member of Parliament (2014–15). Tan is a three-time Sportsman of the Year (1992, 1995 and 1996), and recipient of the Public Service Medal (1993), Public Service Star (1995) and the Singapore Youth Award (1995).1

Early life and education
Tan is the elder of two children born to a middle class Peranakan (Straits-born Chinese) family.2 He attended Eunos Primary School, Ghim Moh Secondary School, and later Hwa Chong Junior College. At Ghim Moh Secondary, Tan was a school prefect, class monitor, captain of the badminton team and member of the National Cadet Corps.3 Tan initially wanted to study ophthalmology, but his abiding interest lay in sports medicine. He pursued medicine at the National University of Singapore before obtaining a master’s degree in sports medicine from the Australian Institute of Sport.4


As a student, Tan was not outstanding academically and did not seem to have many interests outside of school. His father, a keen sailor, began taking him to the Changi Sailing Club on weekends. Sailing soon sparked Tan’s enthusiasm and competitive spirit, and the two-hour bus journey from his home in Holland Road to the club became a routine. He began practising alone for hours, learning from instructors and diligently reading up on sailing theory. His grades began to improve as well.5 Tan completed the sailing course for the Optimist dinghy for youths before progressing to two-man boats such as the Lark and Fireball. In 1984, he won the Asian Fireball Championships in Thailand. At age 19, Tan moved to the Laser class of boats, sailing off Changi and Pulau Ubin.6 The first boat Tan owned was named Bucephalus, after Alexander the Great’s horse.7

Competitive sailing career
With funding from private sponsors and the Singapore Sports Council, Tan embarked on training stints in Europe and the United States, improving his skills by exchanging knowledge with experienced sailors.His training partners included American Laser champion Nick Adamson, three-time world champion Glenn Bourke of Australia, and British sailor Gareth Kelly.9


Tan won his first SEA Games gold medal in 1989 in Kuala Lumpur. In the same year, he finished 37th out of 104 at the World Laser Championships in Denmark, the second-best showing by an Asian. In 1991, he won his second gold medal at the SEA games held in Manila, and was named Singapore’s Sportsman of the Year.10 The following year, Tan was conferred the Public Service Medal for his sporting achievements.11

Juggling sailing with his medical studies, he would attend university lectures in the morning, train at sea for five hours from the afternoon to evening, then work out at the gymnasium at night before hitting the books.12

Tan picked up his third SEA Games gold medal on home waters in 1993, and his fourth and last gold at the games held in Chiangmai, Thailand, in 1995.13 He was crowned Sportsman of the Year two more times, for 1994 and 1995.14 Tan also received the Singapore Youth Award and Public Service Star in 1995.15

The highlight of Tan’s sailing career was in 1994, when he bagged the Asian Games gold medal in the Laser class in Hiroshima. He was Singapore’s first gold medallist at the Asian Games since 1982, earning a cash award of S$250,000 from the Singapore National Olympic Council.16 For his laudable sporting achievement, Tan also won the 1994 Coca-Cola/ The Sunday Times Sports Stars Annual award, which came with a $5,000 cash reward, two-return air tickets to a major sporting event, a Hall of Fame plaque and a year’s free supply of Coke.17

Later career
After the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta where he placed 36th of 56 boats,18 Tan retired from competitive sailing to study for his master’s degree in sports medicine at the Australian Institute of Sport, and to make way for younger sailors.19 However, he continued to be active in the sailing arena, serving as the national team doctor at the 1998 and 2002 Asian Games and the 1999 and 2001 Southeast Asian Games and assisting the Singapore Sailing Federation in setting up a high-performance committee to train athletes.20 Tan also serves on the Singapore National Olympic Council and was inducted into the Singapore Sports Council Hall of Fame.21

In 2003, Tan embarked on his medical career at the Changi Sports Medicine Centre (CSMC) of Changi General Hospital. He was the first doctor to practise sports medicine in a local restructured hospital, and became head and senior consultant of the CSMC as well as medical director of the Singapore Sports Medicine Centre. As of 2024, Tan is an adjunct associate professor at the Nanyang Technological School of Medicine, heading the SingHealth Duke-NUS Sport & Exercise Medicine Centre, and a senior consultant at three sport and exercise medicine centres at Changi General Hospital, Novena Medical Center and Singapore Sports Institute. He continues to sail for pleasure and has taken up marathon running.22 Tan also wrote several books, including The Complete Introduction to Laser Racing. Published in 2000, the book is widely acknowledged as a definitive guide to the sport internationally.23

In June 2010, Tan succeeded Low Teo Ping as president of the Singapore Sailing Federation. He was nominated for the post by five of the federation’s nine affiliate clubs, and was the sole nominee.24 Under Tan’s leadership, a meritocratic system of using open trials to select sailors for tournaments was introduced at the federation, replacing the previous process of having the athletes hand-picked by coaches.25 Tan also formed an Olympic Pathway Taskforce to groom sailors in more Olympic sailing classes and reduce the number of young sailors dropping out of the sport.26 In addition, he started a national keelboat racing league and rotated the racing circuit around various clubs to expose sailors to different conditions.27

Tan also holds several other appointments in the sports sector, such as Chairman of the World Sailing Commission; Sports Patron and Medical Advisor of the Singapore Disability Sports Council; Chairman of the Singapore Sailing Federation Olympic Pathway Taskforce; Advisor to the Singapore Ice Skating Association and member of the Sports Excellence Steering Committee (MCCY). In February 2024, Tan was appointed to the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) Foundation Board.28

Family
Parents: Tan Yew Kier and Nancy Wee
Sister: Jessica Tan
Wife: Alison Lim (married in 1995)



References
1. Tommy Koh et al., eds., Singapore: The Encyclopedia (Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with National Heritage Board, 2006), 535 (Call no. RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS]); Shirlynn Ho-Pereira, “250 Grand Reasons to Smile,” Straits Times, 28 October 1994, 40 (From NewspaperSG); Leo Suryadinata, ed., Southeast Asian Personalities of Chinese Descent: A Biographical Dictionary (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2012), 1059 (Call no. RSING 959.004951 SOU); Office of the Clerk of Parliament, “Nominated Members of Parliament,” press statement, 11 August 2014, https://perma.cc/4844-SM7W; Alfred Chua, “All-new Slate of NMPs Named,” Today, 12 August 2014; Tham Yuen-C, “Line-up of NMPs Includes Two Who Are under 40,” Straits Times, 18 March 2016, 5. (From NewspaperSG)  

2. Ho-Pereira, “250 Grand Reasons to Smile”; Mardiana Ismail, “Gold, Sea, the Doctor,” Straits Times, 21 March 2005, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
3. Chua Chong Jin, “Modest Sailor Tan a Model Sportsman,” Straits Times, 8 March 1992, 27. (From NewspaperSG)
4. Ben Tan, Run for Your Life! : The Complete Marathon Guide (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, 2022), 10 (Call no. RSING 796.4252 TAN); Akshita Nanda, Sailing Lessons,” Straits Times, 6 December 2010, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
5. Chua, “Modest Sailor Tan a Model Sportsman”; Sharon Loh, “Sailing Helped Him Succeed in School,” Straits Times, 13 November 1994, 24 (From NewspaperSG); Nanda, “Sailing Lessons.” 
6. Nanda, “Sailing Lessons.” 
7. Mardiana Ismail, “Gold, Sea, the Doctor.” 
8. Shirlynn Ho-Pereira, “Ben Wins Laser Class to Bag a Gold for Singapore,” Straits Times, 11 October 1994, 30 (From NewspaperSG); Nanda, “Sailing Lessons.” 
9. Ho-Pereira, “Ben Wins Laser Class to Bag a Gold for Singapore”; Chua, “Modest Sailor Tan a Model Sportsman”; Loh, “Sailing Helped Him Succeed in School.
10. Chua, “Modest Sailor Tan a Model Sportsman.”
11. “I Feel Very Proud’,” New Paper, 10 August 1993, 41. (From NewspaperSG)
12. Nanda, “Sailing Lessons.” 
13. Koh et al., Singapore: The Encyclopedia, 535.
14. Al R. Dizon, “The Doctor Is Fit,” New Paper, 19 November 2006, 43. (From NewspaperSG)
15. Koh et al., Singapore: The Encyclopedia, 535.  
16. Ho-Pereira, “Ben Wins Laser Class to Bag a Gold for Singapore.
17. “Ben Tan Wins – Yet Again,” Straits Times, 10 July 1995, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
18. Terrence Voon, “Sailing Towards Olympic Success,” Straits Times, 12 September 2010, 35. (From NewspaperSG)
19. Dizon, “The Doctor Is Fit”; Voon, ”Sailing Towards Olympic Success.”
20. Nanda, “Sailing Lessons”; “Our Team: Adj Assoc Prof Ben Tan, BBM, PBM,” Singapore Sports Medicine Centre, accessed 1 April 2024, https://www.cgh.com.sg/ssmc/pages/dr-ben-tan.aspx.
21. Koh et al., Singapore: The Encyclopedia, 535; “Sailor Tan to Head Panel,” Straits Times, 21 December 2005, 12; “Ben Tan Wins – Yet Again”; Melvyn Teoh, “Singapore National Olympic Council Vice-president Benedict Tan Joins World Anti-Doping Agency’s Foundation Board,” Straits Times, 20 February 2024 (From Newslink via NLB’s eResources website); “Benedict Tan Chi’-Loong,” Singapore National Olympic Council, 2013. (From NLB’s Web Archive Singapore)
22. Dizon, “The Doctor Is Fit”; Singapore Sports Medicine Centre, “Our Team: Adj Assoc Prof Ben Tan, BBM, PBM”; “Adj Assoc Prof Benedict Tan Chi'-Loong,” Changi General Hospital, accessed 16 April 2024, https://www.cgh.com.sg/profile/tan-chi-loong-benedict.
23. Voon, “Sailing Towards Olympic Success.”
24. Leonard Lim, “Ben Tan to Head S’pore’s Bid for Olympic Glory,” Straits Times, 12 June 2010, 35. (From NewspaperSG)
25. Leonard Lim, “Medals and Squabbles,” Straits Times, 22 November 2010, 9. (From NewspaperSG)
26. Terrence Voon, “Wind of Change,” Straits Times, 30 October 2010, 22. (From NewspaperSG)
27. Voon, “Sailing Towards Olympic Success.” 
28. Teoh, “Singapore National Olympic Council Vice-president Benedict Tan.”
29. Nanda, “Sailing Lessons.” 




The information in this article is valid as at 5 June 2024 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 


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