Ajit Singh: 1956 Olympics will always have a special place in my heart

The hockey great was part of the 52-strong Singapore delegation to the Melbourne games

| Singapore | 1 Aug  2016 | Asia Samachar |
Ajit Singh Gill: Singapore's hockey star - PHOTO / ST
Ajit Singh Gill: Singapore’s hockey star – PHOTO / ST

Hockey great Ajit Singh Gill was part of the 52-strong Singapore delegation to the 1956 Olympics in Australia.

“The 1956 Olympics will always have a special place in my heart. I will forever remember it as an event which brought everyone together from all walks of life,” he tells Straits Times on his recollection of the event.

AJit was part of the 18-men hockey team. The delegation also comprised an 11-man basketball squad and an 11-man water polo team.

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“It was also the one and only time in our history that Singapore competed in those three sports at the Olympics. I’m proud to have made a mark for my country on the world stage in hockey.

“It was a trip of a lifetime but it almost did not happen. It cost $30,000 to send the team to Melbourne and we all had to somehow pitch in,” said Ajit, who is now 88-years old.

Ajit was borned in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in 1928 and went to Teacher Training College, Singapore, according to an entry at SikhsInHockey.com. See here.

The Senior Assistant of a secondary school in Singapore had played hockey and cricket for the Selangor Indian Association from 1948 to 1951 and for State of Selangor in 1950, the entry added.

Here is the rest of his story, as narrated to ST (‘Overcoming snags to reach field of dreams’ by Yogaraj Panditurai, Straits Times, July 31, 2016):

Just days before our first match, a fete and funfair was organised at the Padang. Enough was raised to ensure we could go to Australia.

We arrived in Melbourne but some of our equipment did not. It came late. We also lacked the proper training apparel for the cold weather. The team overcame these obstacles in our way and were ready to do the country proud. Our focus was on putting in quality performances in our group games, hopefully good enough to reach the semi-finals.

Our first match was a roaring 6-1 victory over the United States but it must be mentioned they were relatively inexperienced and had just started out in the sport.

Next, we beat Afghanistan 5-0 in convincing fashion. But our biggest test came against defending Olympic gold medallists India.

We lost 0-6 but in reality, we actually fought very hard against the eventual champions. That put us second in our group, which meant we missed out on a semi-final spot.

Singapore lost three more matches subsequently – 0-13 against New Zealand and two 5-0 defeats by Belgium and Australia. We finished eighth overall out of the 12 teams.

The Melbourne outing was also the last time I played hockey competitively.

I’m glad to say that I enjoyed the experience in 1956 very much but more so the spirit of everyone coming together to raise money for us. It was truly special. It showcased the Singapore Olympic spirit.

Singapore hockey team at the Olympics 1956 in Melbourne, Australia - PHOTO / SIKHS IN HOCKEY
Singapore hockey team at the Olympics 1956 in Melbourne, Australia – PHOTO / SIKHS IN HOCKEY


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