Sprint king Shyam to launch book on his athletics career
SINGAPORE — Sixteen years after breaking the national record in the men’s 100m at the World University Games in Beijing, UK Shyam still holds the title of the fastest man in Singapore, with his national mark of 10.37 seconds still standing after over a decade.
Many among the Republic’s younger generation, however, do not know the journey behind Shyam’s race to better sprint legend C Kunalan’s 33-year-old record of 10.38s from the Mexico Olympics. That is set to change, as the former national runner will be releasing a book about his life and athletics career in March next year.
Titled “Running on Empty: The Story Behind 0.01s”, the book will detail Shyam’s colourful and eventful track career from the 1990s to the early 2000s. It is written by former national runner Kenneth Khoo and supported by interviews with ex-national swimmer and mentor Ang Peng Siong, former journalist Jose Raymond, sports writers and personalities, as well as Singapore Athletic Association (SAA) members and coaches.
Shyam told TODAY that he had previously been approached by a number of people keen to tell his story, but he could not find the time to work on it. However, the return of the SEA Games to Kuala Lumpur — where he became a sprint sensation after equaling the record and winning a silver — this month prompted him to say yes.
“I’m doing it now because it’s a full circle of sorts ... Kuala Lumpur has a special significance to me,” said Shyam, 41, who is now a lecturer with Hwa Chong Institution. “It’s the first SEA Games in which I was allowed to run an individual 100m, it’s also where I equalled my own national record, the one time that I got to see my parents together (as they are divorced) and got to race in front of them.
“After so long and the benefit of hindsight and a degree of emotional detachment, I realised that a meaningful narrative can be told to benefit the sporting community.”
After bursting onto the local athletics scene as a schoolboy runner at the National Schools Track and Field Championships, Shyam was touted as the successor to Kunalan.
But a tempestuous relationship with the then-Singapore Amateur Athletic Association, along with his mother’s poor health and financial woes, proved too tough a hurdle for Shyam, who gave up the sport in 2000. His career was revived only after he met Ang, who took him under his wing, gave him a job and got him back on track.
Shyam repaid Ang’s faith in him by breaking the record at the World University Games in August 2001, before equalling the mark en route to a silver medal at the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games a month later.
Shyam hopes his story of grit and perseverance against the odds will inspire more young people to follow their athletic dreams. Part of the proceeds from the sales of the book will go towards the Chiam See Tong Sports Foundation to support underprivileged youth athletes.
He added: “I hope that my story can be an inspiration to current athletes who have big dreams but lack financial support, like me at that time. The narrative is distinct because it is bittersweet ... so it can be both inspirational and sobering.”