Glory Barnabas

A record that has lasted 40years in an event that she did not even train for. This is the legacy of Glory Barnabas an accidental athlete who went on to make Singapore proud in track & field, setting record after record that stood the test of time.

Glory Barnabas has lived up to her name, bringing glory to Singapore and she is still at it now even at the age of 72. She just returned from Japan, competing in the International Gold Masters, winning the gold medal in the High Jump and the silver medal in the long jump event for athletes competing in the age group of 70 – 74 yrs old.

After an illustrious stint in competitive athletics and 50 years in the educational field as a teacher, Mrs Barnabas thought of retirement as a way to take a break and hang up her running shoes. But, soon boredom kicked in, and Glory got back into the think of action again but this time competing in the Masters circuit.


She tells us that she is returning to her roots – the high jump event, which was how she started off in her younger days.

“Uncertainty and expectation are the joys of life.”

When her talent was duly recognised, Mrs Barnabas was quickly put through the training to get her ready for both the local and regional meets. The coaches took the responsibility to develop her further and provided her with the platform, which she had always wanted. Till today, Mrs Barnabas remains grateful towards them. She attributes her success towards her coaches, who have molded her skills and brought out the best in her.

She recalls a particular incident that took place in 1962, when she had to attend a church youth camp in Ipoh. However, she also wanted to participate in a Malaysian meet. Hence, her coach Mr. Tan, told her to go for her camp and that when the race day nears, he would come and pick her up! That was the amount of devotion that the coaches had! They all took the extra step, in order to fulfill the wishes of their athletes.

While Mrs Barnabas was fortunate to get the support of so many people, her family had mixed feelings about her involvement in sports.

“You can do anything you want to do, if you have the support.”



The Gold medal award at the 1973 SEA games in Singapore was a bittersweet victory for Glory Barnabas for whom the top spot remained an elusive goal for a long time. This victory was the precursor for many more to come.

In that 1973 SEA Games she won a gold for the 4X100m relay and 200m sprints as well. Following the Silver medal win at the 1970 Bangkok Asian Games, she went on to win the silver and bronze at the 1974 Asian Games in Tehran in the 4 X 400m and 4x100m relays respectively. In the Masters circuit, she is again hauling in the medals with one of her most impressive feat, the gold for the 200m-sprint event at the 1987 meet in Melbourne.

Despite having participated in numerous events, Mrs. Barnabas states that the 4X400m relay race in the 1974 Asian Games is one she cannot forget. Her team had really wanted to beat the Japanese and they gave their very best. But the Singapore team still lost. In spite of the major setback and disappointment, this run is etched firmly in her memory and is still being talked about in the athletic circles till this day.

"Humility in victory, grace in defeat.”

Mrs Barnabas’s other love is teaching, as she loved being among children. She emphatically told her dad at a very young age that she wanted to go into teaching. Starting her career as a primary school teacher, she got a British Council Bursary to be trained as a Physical Education instructor. On returning from her 1-year training, she got posted finally to Temasek Junior college where she got to work with students of the right maturity to pursue serious sports.


But even while teaching, she had to do her teacher’s training and train for her international events as well. “Balancing all this would not have been possible without the support of my kind school principles”, says Mrs Barnabas. She credits her principles and senior assistants for giving her a fixed morning school session and time off in the afternoon to do her training.

Her love for teaching still continues even after retirement as Mrs Barnabas, at the request of some schools, continues as an adjunct teacher.


"I followed her pathway… ”

There was no big prize money. The sporting facilities were basic. The training gear had to be bought from one’s own pocket money. Yet, sportsmen and women like Mrs Barnabas went on to set and break records during the course of their sporting life. The one attribute which all of them had was the immense passion for sports.

Glory still exudes this passion in her role as the president of the Singapore Masters Athletics. She believes in leading by example as she continues to compete while encouraging the seniors to take up sports.

She wrapped up the interview by sharing with us how sports not only develops a person physically, but also mentally and through sports, one can build team spirit, teamwork and create strong bonds. Indeed, the bond that Glory Barnabas has with Singapore through her teaching and sporting achievements will be remembered for eternity.


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