07 December 2019

Christina Tham takes gold at Southeast Asian Games 38 years after first appearance

Singapore's Christina Tham won gold at the Southeast Asian Games, 38 years after she first competed at the event.

In 1981, she claimed silver at the SEA Games as a swimmer in the 4x100m medley race, aged just 12.

Two years later, she achieved yet another second-place, but she then had an incredible hiatus which lasted more than three decades.

And, after returning to elite sport in 2005, Tham secured a first ever gold in her new discipline of underwater hockey, shortly after her 50th birthday.

She said: "I never thought I would be back [at the] SEA Games and winning golds and scoring goals. I never thought I could perform at this level again."

Tham was thrilled to finally claim victory after so many years without a winner's medal and concedes she did not fully understand the magnitude of medalling in a major competition as a youngster.

"I was very young and didn't appreciate the significance [of my] achievement. I come from a typical Singaporean Chinese family where [you're] expected to [accept] achievements with modesty," she added.

"It was only after I became an adult that I realised the enormity of my achievements - I was 12 and had won a medal in the SEA Games and was in the top 10 per cent in the country in the [national examinations that year]."

And the 50-year-old could not be more grateful for having found underwater hockey, something which has had a positive effect on her life as a whole.

"I saw an article [about underwater hockey]. It sounded so interesting and intriguing, [so I] went to try it out," she said.

"I thought that playing a team sport would really round me up as a person. I found I missed a dimension doing only solitary sports my whole life."

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