Wee Tian Siak
Wee Tian Siak
Wee Tian Siak
Date of birth: 26 April 1921
Competitive Career: 1936 - 1958
Deceased: 29 July 2004
A two-time Olympian, The King developed his courtly skills - and obtained his education - in Singapore's Chinese schools (Ai Tong Primary and Chung Cheng High School). As a youngster, he grew up in Cecil Street. Also known as Huang Tianxi, he represented Singapore in 1939 whilke only 18. While the war years interrupted Singapore's entire sports scene, he played with the Malayan Chinese team in the All-China Games in Shanghai, His all-round skills (in basketball, javelin and volleyball), as well as his height (6'3" or 1.90m), caught the attention of the Taiwan selection team and he was chosen for China's delegation to the 1948 London Olympics. Four years later, he was again chosen to don the colours of Nationalist China for the Helsinki Olympics. Unfortunately, the dispute between Communist and Nationalist China over IOC recognition led to neither side participating. Although The King was sidelined in Helsink, he was to return to action, this time for Singapore, at the 1954 Asian Games in Manila, the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, and the 1958 Asian Games in Tokyo. Tian Siak recounts the influential coaching styles of Sam Fox, Ray Kaufman and Charlie Sien. The King saw a lot of basketball over the decades and judged the local playing ability this way: ' Our team was up to standard when we played against other Asian nations, but not against the western teams. Their tall players swept the field every time.'
Photo © Tuck Loong
Players such as The King were early 'barnstormers', flying off to play numerous matches in all corners of Asia. One memorable yet terrifying moment occurred in 1957 on a flight to Taiwan, on the way to the Chiang Kai-Shek Cup. The airplane lost power in one engine; all the passengers, including the 21 members of the Singapore team and the 17-member Thailand team, threw their luggage out of the plane to lighten the load on the remaining engine. The plane regained altitude and landed in Taipei, to the relief of The King - albeit minus all their belongings, including their kits and gear!
He naturally played as a forward and/or centre, and was affectionately called lao da (leader, or big brother), indicative of his usual selection as team captain. In his career, Tian Siak wore jersey number 13, and averaged nearly 20 points per game. Like many of the best local players, he competed for a place in the Nanyang Siang Pau basketball squads, calling this a 'half-professional job'. With him as captain, the paper's team won practically every local tournament and also at an insurance company. He ended his basketball career as coach of the 1965 SEAP Games team. The Wee family's sporting lineage can also be traced down to his son (Richard Wee, a SEA Games billiards coach) and a grandson (David Wee, a SEA Games water polo player).