Singapore’s first Sportboy of the Year Marc Tay dies aged 63
Former national swimmer Marc Tay had a “very big heart” and was a mentor whom his teammates looked up to as “an older brother”.
Tay, who in 1978 became the first recipient of the Sportsboy of the Year award, died on Tuesday aged 63. The cause of death has not been confirmed.
His journey in the sport began when he was eight and he competed in various school-level competitions and meets, before donning national colours from 1973 to 1982.
He was one of the most promising swimmers in the Under-17 age group and in 1977, he clocked 56.08 seconds in the 100m freestyle at the Singapore Amateur Swimming Association (SASA) National Age Group meet to rewrite the previous mark of 56.30sec that had stood for nine years.
Later that year, he became the first local swimmer to break the 56-second mark in the same event when he clinched silver at the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games in 55.84sec. He ended up winning two silvers and a bronze at the biennial event.
Tay’s former teammate Oon Jin Teik, who competed at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, remembers his senior as someone who was always willing to help the younger swimmers.
Even though they competed for spots on the 4x100m freestyle team, Oon said it never stopped Tay from helping him.
The 60-year-old said: “He was a competitor but at the same time, he guided me. His heart was very big. He may have been vying with a younger guy, trying to fight for the team but he’s very encouraging and he wasn’t selfish. I remember him very clearly.
“At events and Games, he wasn’t acting like a prima donna, he was always servicing people, helping the young ones. I always looked up to him as an older brother.”
Former national swimmer Mark Chan recalled how he and Tay had pushed each other in the weeks leading up to the 1978 Asian Games in Bangkok as they trained without their coach who was at a seminar in Alabama.
Tay would stay over at Chan’s house, with the duo waking up at 4.30am to go for training at the Chinese Swimming Club.
Chan said: “There was a determination with him that we find in top-level swimmers. A lot of people would talk about his looks above other things but for anyone to get this level, it requires a lot of sacrifice.
“He was a sweet and dedicated person. I’m sad that he’s gone, I’ve only the fondest memories of him.”
Swimming legend Patricia Chan, who won 39 SEA Games gold medals, added: “I’ve always known him to be polite and very warm. He was always very helpful, a very giving chap. This was a bit of a shock.
“He was very softspoken and I’ve never known Marc to say anything harsh about anybody. We will miss him quite a bit.”
Outside of the pool, Tay was an ophthalmologist. In 1993, he was awarded the Gulf Medal by the British government in addition to the one given by the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) for serving in the Gulf war in 1991.
The medal is awarded by the British Defence Ministry to all British and Commonwealth personnel in recognition of their service during the 1990-91 hostilities.
Tay was in the 30-member SAF medical team who spent 54 days on a humanitarian mission in Riyadh between January and March 1991 giving medical care to the wounded in the Gulf war.
He also made headlines in 2016 when he was suspended by the Singapore Medical Council for three months for hiding nearly $450,000 in extra earnings from his employer.
Tay’s wake will be held at the Singapore Funeral Parlour at 91 Tampines Link till Saturday.