SINGAPORE: As a teenage girl in the 1950s, Madam Mary Klass had the odds stacked against her. She had no family support, nor a coach, in her quest of becoming an athlete.
But she did not let this get in the way of her dream to represent Singapore in athletics, training tirelessly instead. Her routine would involve waking up at 4am to do the household chores at her Rangoon Road home, then off to train at a nearby field at 5.30am. She would train again at 5pm, this time at Raffles Institution which was located in Bras Basah Road then.
Madam Klass first represented Singapore at the Asian Games in 1954 in Manila, as a “nobody” but surprised everyone by winning a silver medal in the 100m sprint. She clocked a time of 12.5s, the same time clocked by the winner from Japan, a games record. The record stood for more than 20 years, she recounted proudly.
She went on to represent Singapore in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. Now aged 83, Madam Klass is one of five Singaporeans whose life story will be featured in a film which will be interspersed throughout this year’s National Day Parade (NDP) show segment.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday (Jul 4) at an event at which details on the NDP show were unveiled, she recounted how she trained with boys which improved her stamina and strength.
Madam Klass said: “I was determined, and I wanted to do my best, not so much for myself, I wanted to stand tall for my country.”
Her mother, who suffered from tuberculosis, was her inspiration, she added.
She said: “My mum was not an athlete, but she suffered 17 years with one lung. She was a very strong person, and looking at her, that she can persevere her sickness, and never let her sickness get the better of her, that gave me all the confidence.”
The film also features a former samsui woman, struggling student, a visually impaired busker, and a young social entrepreneur.
Film-maker Boo Junfeng, creative director of the show, said: “All five of them took ownership of their destinies and became the change they wanted to see in our society. The film will give us a glimpse into their lives, of the pursuit of their dreams and aspirations, the challenges they had to overcome, and the bonds they’ve made with the people around them.”
GIANT BALLOONS, NOSTALGIC MASCOTS AND FAMILIAR FLOATS
The show will feature three acts and a finale, with more than 3,000 performers and more than 100 costumes to celebrate Singapore’s 53rd birthday on Aug 9 at the Floating Platform.
In keeping with the theme of everyday Singaporeans, one of the acts features a performance by people dressed in workwear - parking attendants, port staff and bus captains among them.
Giant helium balloon garlands, mascots to engage the audience, and floats depicting Singapore’s favourite playgrounds will also feature at this year’s NDP.
Each garland, measuring 18m long and the size of car tyres, will be handled by performers, forming a visual spectacle. Up to 2,800 balloons will be used for the show.
Six familiar mascots will also interact with the audience in the build-up to the show. Among them, Captain Green, which was introduced in 1990 to encourage a clean and green lifestyle, Nila the Lion, the official mascot for the 2015 Southeast Asian Games and Sharity Elephant, introduced in 1984 to encourage caring and sharing. Singa the Courtesy Lion, Teamy the Bee and Water Wally will also make their appearance.
Replicas of the Dragon, Dove and Pelican playgrounds found in Toa Payoh Dakota Crescent and Dover Road respectively, will form part of the procession of 18 boats and floats which will be visible to all in the Marina Bay area.
Traditional crowd favourites, the Red Lions, the Singapore Armed Forces' parachutists, will return to wow the crowd during the pre-parade segment, this time jumping from a height of 3,810m, the highest for NDP. They will also be doing a wingsuit jump for the first time.
Also for the first time at the NDP, they will be joined by divers from the Naval Diving Unit. The Naval Combat Divers will jump from a height of 1,830m into a demarcated landing zone in the waters next to the Floating Platform. The 10 Red Lions and eight Combat Divers will execute a combined salute to the nation.
Chairman of the Show Committee Colonel Goh Pei Ming said: “We hope that Singaporeans will feel inspired to chase their dreams, they will be fearless to overcome the difficulties that they may face, selfless in supporting the people around them, but more importantly, to be proud to call themselves Singaporeans.”