Tan Eng Liang
(Singapore & Balliol 1961) (24 June 1937 - 28 May 2023)
Former national water polo player and veteran sports official Tan Eng Liang was a “sporting giant” with a “heart of gold” who will be missed dearly by his family, friends and the Singapore sports fraternity.
He is survived by his wife Kathryn, three children and five grandchildren.
His family said in a statement on Sunday: “Our dearest father, Dr Tan Eng Liang, passed away peacefully. He had been battling advanced cancer. We grieve deeply as he was a devoted father and doting grandfather who loved us unconditionally. He taught us strong values to live by and exemplified these principles in his own life.
“We will miss him dearly. Dad devoted his life to serving the community particularly in the field of sports. Even in the midst of illness, he continued to contribute with grit and courage. He was an inspiration to us all. A bright star has dimmed but it shines in our hearts forever.”
Tan and his older brothers Eng Chai and Eng Bock, who both died in 2020, represented Singapore in water polo at major events such as the South-east Asian Peninsular (Seap) Games and Asian Games.
The siblings learnt to swim in the open sea and Tan’s love of sport was clear from a young age. To earn a spot on the national water polo team at the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games, he had to put his studies aside, resulting in a failed attempt to enter medical school. He went on to win three medals – a bronze and two silvers – at the Asian Games and two Seap Games golds.
Outside the pool, he was Singapore’s first Rhodes scholar. He obtained a doctorate in chemistry from Oxford University in 1964.
He then went into politics as River Valley’s Member of Parliament before becoming Minister of State for National Development from 1975 to 1978. He was the Senior Minister of State for Finance from 1979 to 1980.