Featured News Feng Tianwei, Azuan Tan and Jeffrey Heng: Tears of joy and relief

Feng Tianwei, Azuan Tan and Jeffrey Heng: Tears of joy and relief

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Sense And Nonsense by Tan Bah Bah

Three iconic images made their way to the Singapore consciousness in the last two weeks. They reminded us of the various ways and journeys to being Singaporean, sometimes unexpectedly, sometimes spontaneously and sometimes in a moment of realisation and supreme clarity.

The first two came out of this year’s National Day Parade. With eyes of millions glued to the usually perfect landing of elite Red Lion parachutists at The Float @ Marina Bay, one parachutist had a hard landing. The spectators held their breath. 

Third Warrant Officer Jeffrey Heng, who was the last of 10 parachutists to land during NDP 2022, skidded on the pavement and fell to the ground entangled in his parachute. His fellow jumpers rushed to his aid and he was taken to hospital. The parade went on.

“Chief of Defence Force and Chief of Army visited him. We are glad to report that he is stable. Suffered some injuries due to hard landing, but no surgery required. He will need time and some rehab but full recovery is expected,” Defence Minister Dr Ng Eng Hen wrote in a Facebook post on Aug 10 evening.

NDPs have had incidents before. There had been reports of minor parachute landing incidents at decentralised rallies. Also, in an early years parade at the Padang, a huge helium balloon burst and caused some injuries. At one time, the rallies were held in the morning. The then Defence Minister Dr Goh Keng Swee changed it to the evenings because he did not want the children participants to suffer from having to wake up too early.

Being Singaporean is being part of the de rigueur parade, as a participant on the air and ground – or in the galleries as a spectator. This year, the iconic image coming out of the spectator stand was that of teacher Azuan Tan who was captured singing Majulah Singapura with tears streaming involuntarily from his eyes.  He described it as “being in the moment”, of joining all Singaporeans who have fought through the Covid pandemic.

Finally, there is table tennis player Feng Tianwei, who was born in Harbin, China but became a Singapore citizen in 2008. We know her as one of the Chinese turned Singaporean players who helped put Singapore on the table tennis map – from the Olympic Games to world championships, Asian Games, SEA Games to the Commonwealth Games. 

In what could be one of her final appearances in a glittering career, I think Singaporeans truly and maybe finally accepted her as one of their own for her remarkable performance and exemplary conduct at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games.

In her fourth Commonwealth Games appearance, her sweep in the women’s team, singles and doubles events demonstrated her reign as the Games’ most decorated paddler and one of Singapore’s most iconic athletes. 

She showed her never-say-die calibre in the singles event when she literally clawed her way back from three sets down to beat compatriot Zeng Jian 4-3 in an all-Singapore final. She cried as she received her gold medal. That image has now also become iconic for many Singaporeans following the games. That’s what having a fighting spirit is all about. We can learn much from this outstanding personality. And yes, as far as I am concerned, when she received the David Dixon Award as the outstanding athlete of the Birmingham Games at the closing ceremony, she has earned her place as a true-blue Singaporean sportsman, bar none.

Tan Bah Bah, consulting editor of TheIndependent.Sg, is a former senior leader writer with The Straits Times. He was also managing editor of a magazine publishing company.

Send in your scoops to news@theindependent.sg 

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