The Yang wizard of hockey

Two-time Olympian Yang Siow Ming now at 75.

AT 74, Parkinson’s disease has slowed his mobility, the hands tremble and he needs a wheelchair to move around.

But there was a time when Yang Siow Ming was a fleet-footed athlete, representing his school in hockey, cricket, football and athletics (100 and 200m sprint).

And those hands were so full of wizardry as they wielded the hockey stick around bedazzled opponents as he went from school, to state and then became a mainstay of the national hockey team, representing the country in two Olympics.

Now, Siow Ming’s face lights up just at the mention of the Olympic Games.

After all, the Malaysian team he featured in were the giants of Asia, together with India and Pakistan. The side only missed out once out of six Olympic editions between 1956 and 1976.

Siow Ming was one of the notable players who managed to make the final team for two consecutive Olympics in 1968 (Mexico) and in Munich (1972).

The hockey team finished eighth in Munich – still the best achievement for Malaysia in Olympic history.

It could have been three Olympics but for the fact that he missed out on the Tokyo 1964 edition because he had to sit for his Form Five exams that year.

“Despite missing the Tokyo Games, I continued to play hockey and never missed out on training sessions as I wanted to keep my Olympic dream alive.

“It is every sportsman’s dream to make it to the Games and I still remember until today how colourful and breathtaking the opening ceremonies were, ” said the soft-spoken Siow Ming.

Siow Ming (middle) during his student days.Siow Ming (middle) during his student days.

He was born in Kuala Kangsar but was brought up in Malacca when his parents, both school teachers, were transferred.

He spent his secondary years in Malacca High School, the country’s second oldest school and founded in 1826 after Penang Free School (founded in 1817).

The school is noted for producing top sportsmen who went on to make the national teams in athletics, cricket, fencing, football, archery and even bodybuilding and taekwondo.

“But hockey remains the top choice.

“There were many other schoolboys who went on to play for the national hockey team. My teammate Koh Hock Seng also played in two Olympics in Tokyo 1964 and Mexico 1968.

“Other sports adopted a seasonal approach but hockey competitions were held the whole year round.

“There were many opportunities to select talents to form Under-15 and Under-18 training squads, so it was a big thing to represent even the school, ” recalled Siow Ming, who also achieved the feat of being named Sportsman of the Year for five consecutive years at Malacca High School.

He was an all-rounder, having represented the school in at least four sports “but I dropped everything else when I started playing hockey.”

He went on to play for the national team for six years.

Donning a hat at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico.Donning a hat at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico.

“I played for Malaysia for the first time in an international match against Singapore when I was in Form Four.

“I was only 20 when I was picked to play in the Bangkok Asian Games where we finished fourth.

“I also played in the 1971 SEA Games when we were the hosts and won the gold medal, ” said Siow Ming, who later followed in his parents footsteps by becoming a teacher after graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree from Universiti Malaysia (1967-1970).

It was at the Bangkok Asian Games where he met his future wife Thong Nyok Seen, the daughter of former Olympic Council of Malaysia general secretary, the late Thong Poh Nyen.

They tied the knot after the 1972 Munich Olympics. Siow Ming also quit the sport after that but turned to coaching the Kuala Lumpur team in between pursuing a Masters degree in England.

Siow Ming said he dedicated his life to hockey while holding a job as a teacher at Kajang High School and later at Victoria Institution. He has also lectured at the Specialist Teachers Training College (STTI) in Cheras at one point.

Siow Ming also served as the director of coaching in the Malaysian Hockey Federation and was responsible for setting up the coaching system in the country and conducting courses.

“The game has become too big and there is too much money involved, so players are content to play at state level.

“In my days, we were really motivated to play for the nation as there were not many tournaments in which you could do so. It was really a privilege, ” said Siow Ming, who now lives with his only son Eugene and daughter-in-law Clara.

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