The Electric New Paper : 20 July 2008 BEIJING 08 THE 2008 SUMMER OLYMPICS S'pore's QUEST for GOLD As The New Paper starts its countdown to Beijing08, LIM SAY HENG and CEL GULAPA take a trip down the memory lane and relive some of Singapore's significant's moments at the Olympic Games... Singapore, then a Crown Colony, was first recognised as an independent 'Olympic country' by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and was thus eligible to send its own athletes. LONDON - 1948 Singapore, then a Crown Colony, was first recognised as an independent 'Olympic country' by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and was thus eligible to send its own athletes. High-jumper Lloyd Valberg was our first competitor at the Games. With no access to professional training facilities or coaching, the late Valberg invented a portable folding contraption in 1937 and trained without sandpits. The Eurasian eventually qualified for the final and finished 14th, despite suffering from an injury and feeling homesick. MELBOURNE - 1956 Singapore sent 52 athletes to Australia for the Games, its biggest contingent ever. Among the athletes was an 18-man hockey team, captained by the late Percy Pennefather - considered to be the founding father of Singapore hockey. Pennefather scored a hat-trick in Singapore's first game against the United States as we romped to a 6-0 victory. We eventually finished a credible 8th overall, above arch-rivals Malaya. ROME - 1960 Singapore wins its first and only Olympic medal as Tan Howe Liang beat 33 others to a silver in the lightweight category. Tan, who was 27 then, lifted 380kg at the Palazetto Dello Sports Hall in Rome, losing only to Russia's Viktor Busheuv. The three-time Olympian is the only Singaporean to win a medal at the major international games - Olympics, Commonwealth, Asian and SEAP, scoring gold in all except for the Olympics. MEXICO - 1968 Singapore takes part in the Olympics for the first time as an independent country after separating from Malaysia, sending four athletes to Mexico City, located 2,300m above sea level. Numerous records were set there, where the air contained 30 per cent less oxygen, including a 100m national record for C. Kunalan. The 1966 Asian Games silver-medallist clocked 10.38s in Mexico, setting a benchmark that would stand for 33 years. UK Shyam bettered that by 0.01s in 2001. MOSCOW - 1980 Singapore joined the US-led boycott in protest at the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. That was the only time that Singapore missed the Games since 1948. LOS ANGELES - 1984 Singapore returned to the 1984 Games in United States, when the Soviet Union led 13 other Eastern bloc countries in a revenge boycott, a response to the 1980 snub. A total of five Singaporeans took part in the Games, including current SSC chief Oon Jin Teik and brother Jin Gee, currently SSA's secretary-general. That year also marked the Olympics debut of swimming legend Ang Peng Siong, who became the world's fastest man in the 50m freestyle two years before this Games. The two-time Olympian made his debut in style, winning the 100m freestyle 'B' final with a time of 51.09s and setting a national record with that feat. That was Singapore swimming's best showing at the Games ever, and the record stood for 22 years. SYDNEY - 2000 Table tennis player Jing Junhong came closest to winning only Singapore's second Olympic medal when she reached the semi-finals of the women's singles. But Jing, then ranked 31st in the world, crashed out to China's Li Ju, then world No. 2, in the last four. She fought bravely for the bronze medal, but eventually succumbed to then world No. 3 and third seed Chen Jing of Taiwan after winning the first set. 'I had not even expected to make the semi-finals before coming here. If I had won a medal, I think I probably deserved bonus points,' she said then. ATHENS - 2004 The heartbreak was almost uncanny four years later, as Jing's successor, Li Jiawei, came agonisingly close to winning an Olympic medal for Singapore. Li was on the way to a historic final in the women's singles, leading North Korea's Kim Hyang Mi 3-1 in the semi-final match. But nerves got the better of her and she eventually lost 3-4. A place in the final would have guaranteed Singapore our second medal since Tan Howe Liang's silver in 1960. The nerves showed up again during the bronze medal play-off, as Li lost to South Korea's Kim Kyung Ah after winning the first set. 'Please tell Singapore I'm sorry for not giving them an Olympic medal,' she said tearfully after the match. 'They have been so supportive. I know how long we have all been waiting.'