Story and photos by Iman Hashim/Red Sports. Additional reporting by Erwin Wong/Red Sports
National Stadium, Friday, April 28, 2023 — As of six months ago, barely anyone in the local athletics fraternity might have heard of Raffles Institution (RI)’s Tate Tan. After all, at that point, he had only ever competed twice in an official 100-metre race, clocking a modest 12.58 seconds and 12.12s four years back as a 14-year-old.
It was no surprise then that he made heads turn under National Stadium floodlights on Friday, clinching gold in the A Division boys’ 100m final in an eye-catching 10.74s (-0.2m/s).
The timing saw him become the third-fastest schoolboy in National School Games (NSG) history in the event, only behind Mark Lee’s 10.59s record set last year and Donovan Chan’s 10.70s in 2012. Tate would have also placed fifth, and second among local sprinters, in the Men’s Open 100m final that happened moments earlier at the concurrent 83rd Singapore Open Track and Field Championships.
“I wasn’t able to have the chance to compete for a very long time,” said the 18-year-old.
“This year was the first year that I managed to compete… and with my friends encouraging me and my coaches telling me that I could do it, I was able to come back and give my best for my final NSG.”
Tate’s meteoric rise in the past few months comes after a series of ill fortune over the years.
He broke his arm in Secondary 2 forcing him out of the NSG, while the annual meet was suspended in the following two years amid Covid-19. Last year, he sustained a toe fracture outside of training and quit the sport for around three to four months.
“I came back (to the sport) after a while, and it was all thanks to my friends,” he added.
His comeback began in November last year, when he raised a few eyebrows stopping the clock at 11.08s at the Club Zoom 9th Kindred Spirit Series.
He has since grown from strength to strength, recording 11.00s at the Singapore Athletics All-Comers Meet 2 this February, and going under the 11s barrier for the first time when he clocked 10.82s in the semi-finals of this NSG meet.
RI sprints coach Melvin Tan was pleased with his charge’s “exponential” improvement.
“No one had noticed him as he was kind of laid-back during the Covid period and did not compete.
“At the end of last year, he started training three times per week with each session lasting 2.5 hours. Coupled with his innate great talent, he was able to make progress at an exponential rate,” said Mr Tan, who also coaches six national athletes bound for next month’s Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.
Tate’s 100m gold was his second of the meet, adding to his victory in the 200m two days earlier where he crossed the line in a quick 21.93s. He is the only Singaporean who has gone sub-22s in the event this year aside from SEA Games-bound Reuben Rainer Lee (21.16s) and Mark Lee (21.69s).
Tate’s victory on Friday also capped off an RI clean sweep of the boys’ 100m golds, with Brayden Chan winning the B Division final in 11.12s and Wang Qiyue the C Division winner in 11.85s.
Brayden’s winning time was a steady improvement from his previous personal bests of 11.25s equalled in the heats and 11.13s clocked in the semi-finals, and he was quick to attribute it to the support of his coaches.
“I’m grateful for their help all these years, and I hope to maintain the standards moving forward,” said the 16-year-old.
Mr Tan acknowledged the challenges in getting the best out of his athletes.
“It was difficult initially as three of them had different physical make-up and running mechanics,” he said, referring to the three 100m champions. “In addition, Qiyue had a composure issue, Brayden needed to recover more quickly while Tate had really tight muscles.”
“But they were teachable, determined and motivated, so it made my job easier. I was glad that they had overcome their personal challenges and could sprint more efficiently,” added Mr Tan, who took up the RI job for a second time in July last year.
He previously coached at the school for around 10 years from August 2009 to May 2019.
Aided by the sprint titles, RI clinched its first A and B boys’ divisional titles since 2016 and 2018 respectively, while it was the school’s first time claiming both trophies at the same meet in 33 years, wrestling the honours back from perennial rivals Hwa Chong Institution.
64th National Schools Track and Field Championships 2023
C Div Boys’ 100m Final (W/G: -0.2 m/s)
1st Wang Qiyue (#390, Raffles Institution) — 11.85 seconds
2nd Keane Tan Jun (#58, Anglo-Chinese School (Independent)) — 11.97
3rd Jonathan Philip Hoare (#255, Hwa Chong Institution) — 12.02
4th Oliver Ho Yijia (#470, St. Patrick’s School) — 12.04
5th Fu Zixuan (#253, Hwa Chong Institution) — 12.33
6th Choo Yee Wei (#19, Ahmad Ibrahim Secondary) — 12.47
7th Lee Xing Zhe Alvis (#60, Anglo-Chinese School (Independent)) — 12.51
8th Aidan Yeo Li Herng (#43, Anglo-Chinese School (Independent)) — 12.67
B Div Boys’ 100m Final (W/G: -0.1 m/s)
1st Brayden Chan Wei Jie (#472, Raffles Institution) — 11.12 seconds
2nd Song En Xu Reagan (#86, Anglo-Chinese School (Independent)) — 11.35
3rd Emir Bin Muhammad Rashid (#532, Singapore Sports School) — 11.38
4th Low Wei Yi Dillon (#118, Bedok View Secondary) — 11.56
5th Tong Zong Wei (#351, Hwa Chong Institution) — 11.76
6th Tong Xian Yao (#89, Anglo-Chinese School (Independent)) — 11.83
7th Joshua Lee Shyen (#73, Anglo-Chinese School (Independent)) — 11.90
8th Mikail Emre Wijaya (#596, St. Patrick’s School) — 13.22
A Div Boys’ 100m Final (W/G: -0.2 m/s)
1st Tate Tan Fung (#238, Raffles Institution) — 10.74 seconds
2nd Xavier Tan Tze How (#51, Anglo-Chinese School (Independent)) — 11.18
3rd Ong Ying Tat (#304, Victoria Junior College) — 11.26
4th Zachary Tan Shan Wei (#147, Hwa Chong Institution) — 11.36
5th Chia Keane Yearn Darius (#112, Hwa Chong Institution) — 11.43
6th Isaac Ling De Jun (#37, Anglo-Chinese School (Independent)) — 11.47
7th Goh Jaeng Hee (#209, Raffles Institution) — 11.61
8th Luke Tan (#45, Anglo-Chinese School (Independent)) — 11.63
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