AT the height of his sporting career, sports writers described Tam Chiew Seng, the hockey star who represented Malaysia in the 1978 and 1982 Asian Games and the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984, as a tireless player.
Sporting his signature headband – because he had long hair and the headband was very much in fashion at that time – Tam was a media darling in the hockey arena.
“I played to win. I was like an engine,” recalled Tam, now 61.
He admitted that sports writers had their favourites but said, “they could be a critical lot as well”.
A Melaka native and the son of a bricklayer, Tam started a career in sports as a cricket player.
When he debuted in the Saudara Cup in 1972 at age 16, he was the youngest player in the Malaysian team. His last international cricket outing was in the 1980 Interport match against Hong Kong.
As for his hockey career, he retired upon returning from the 1984 Olympics in the US, much to his fans’ disappointment as the 28-year-old was at his peak.
But the father of two, who is now a compliance manager with Eng Lian Enterprise, decided it was a good time to start a new chapter in his life.
The writing of this new chapter was mainly inspired during a group outing with friends to a theatre play in Universiti Malaya.
There, he met his wife, Constance Teo. Soon enough, Tam stepped into the role of supporting husband, no-nonsense parent and dedicated family man.
“It has been a long time since I have held a hockey stick,” he said when met at Bukit Kiara Royal Selangor Club.
But it is not that Tam is no longer inclined to sports. He simply switched sticks – from hockey to golf.
“I used to be a single handicapper. Now it is 15,” laughed Tam.
He blames age and work commitments for the slide. But it does not bother him as he reckons he has overcome bigger challenges such as conquering Mount Kinabalu when he was 55 and travelled around the world with his wife and golf mates.
Tam also boasted about his wife’s photography talents. He said her works were featured in an exhibition, “Nature Thru The Lens”, at the White Box in Publika in June.
Still sporting a svelte frame, Tam’s latest preoccupation is his fitness.
“Health will not come to you. You have to work for it, “ he said.
Having gone through the heartbreak of seeing his late mother struggle after surviving a stroke, Tam is determined to age gracefully.
Tan’s approach to health is simple.
He is up at 6am daily to snap on his Fitbit and track the mileage he has clocked in his morning walks.
He does not believe in following health fads, save for one session of yoga after which he decided it would have been best taken when he was younger and more flexible.
When it comes to food, he confessed to be yet convinced by organic vegetables and wheat germ.
“I eat everything. But I believe in moderation and not to overeat. I stop the moment I am full,” said Tam.
He also makes sure to cut away the lard when he is enjoying roast pork. He drinks red wine when the occasion is fit but his limit is three glasses.
He does not smoke and does not mince his words on those who do.
As a former police officer, Tam is totally against drugs. The very first thing he told his son when the boy attended university was not to study hard but to stay away from drugs.
On his life philosophy, Tam said he is entirely against public demonstrations, insisting there is no issue that cannot be settled by discourse.
“You must know who to talk to,” said Tam.
He also believes everyone must learn the valuable lesson of standing on their own feet, for that is how one builds character.
But he also stressed on the importance of lifelong friendships because no man is an island.
Coming from a traditional Chinese family, he places importance on filial piety.
He is especially sentimental of a shirt his daughter bought him for his birthday.
On his current interests, Tam said he and his wife have caught the traveling bug. Both are looking forward to touring Eastern Europe.
Otherwise, he can be found on the golf course most Saturdays.