#HerWorldHerStory: Ex-national sprinter Glory Barnabas who’s still passionate about the sport at 78

by Hayley Tai & Cheong Wen Xuan  /   May 19, 2020

Nearly 80, the ex-national sprinter and teacher is still going strong as a track and field competitor, and she hopes to inspire youths to take up sports as a career


#HerWorldHerStory is a collection of 60 women sharing their successes, passions, challenges, inspirations, hopes and dreams. Together, they give a snapshot of what it is to be a woman today.

Every month from March till August, we present 10 women navigating their lives now – and in their own words. This is Glory Barnabas’ story…

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My former coach used to tell me, “An athlete has to have CPF: commitment, perseverance and focus.” It’s a quote I live by, and the reason why I still compete today! I recently won the gold and silver medals for the high and long jump events at the 2019 Asia Masters Athletics Championships (veteran athletes aged 70 and above) in Kuching, Sarawak. It was fun, and beating my competitors gives me an adrenaline rush.

I trained for this at the Kallang Practice Track every day. I’m proud to say that I cleared a clean 0.85m for high jump this time – not far from my previous high-jump win (0.92m) at the 2013 International Gold Masters in Japan.

Competitions give me the opportunity to carry on the skills I learnt and have excelled in. I switched from sprints to jump events in 2004 to try something new.

I always think back to the days when I competed for Singapore in track and field events. It reminds me of my deep passion for sports. What kept me going as a Physical Education (PE) teacher were the students. They’re the reason why I spent 58 years as a PE teacher in primary and secondary schools.

I enjoy their company, and they would ask me, “Mrs Barnabas, what was your timing in 200m then?”, “Were you the fastest runner in Singapore?” and “Wah… how many medals do you have at home?” I hope I can inspire these youngsters to consider a career in sports.

Even though I’m retired, I still apply for relief and adjunct teaching positions. What it comes to keeping fit, there is no such thing as being too old! I also continue to train, running around my neighbourhood in Marine Parade.

I started sprinting competitively when I was in secondary school, and got my big break at 30. In 1973, I won a gold medal for the 200m sprint at the Southeast Asian Peninsular (SEAP) Games, now Southeast Asian (SEA) Games. I remember the cheers from Singaporeans at the booths. I felt so exhilarated!

My team took home a gold medal for the 4x100m event, with a record timing of 3:43.85. This record was broken 42 years later by our national team at the 2015 SEA Games!

I still follow the track and field scene closely, and I hope our athletes get more support from Singaporeans.

This article was first published in Her World’s May issue. Grab a copy today!