C Kunalan: Track Legend, Father of Three

Front Row L-R: Gina Thomsette, Mike Thomsette, Jasmine Skye Macleod, C Kunalan, Mona Kunalan, Chong Yoong Yin, Amber India Macleod. Back Row L-R: Soma Macleod, Collin Macleod

Front Row L-R: Gina Thomsette, Mike Thomsette, Jasmine Skye Macleod, C Kunalan, Mona Kunalan, Chong Yoong Yin, Amber India Macleod. Back Row L-R: Soma Macleod, Collin Macleod

One of the most well-known names in Singapore athletics, C Kunalan has had a career that all of us appreciate –he has earned 15 SEA Games and five Asian Games medals, plus numerous Singapore National Records during his storied career. His passion for athletics still burns brightly, and he serves as Vice President (Training and Selection) with the Singapore Athletic Association.

This year, C Kunalan is among our panelists at the Dads for Life Conference on 12 May. In the run up to the Conference, we interviewed the local track and field legend to hear his thoughts on family and modern fatherhood.


C Kunalan (whose full name is Canagasabai Kunalan), and his wife, Chong Yoong Yin, both 70, have three daughters.

Their eldest, Soma, is married to Colin Macleod, they have two daughters, Jasmin Skye, 15, and Amber Inda, 13. Their second daughter is Mona, now a Personal Trainer and living with the Kunalans. Gina is their youngest daughter, and is married to Mike Thomsette. They are expecting their first child in June, and Gina runs an eating establishment called The Fat Cat.

Of his children, he tells us, “all three are close to each other; (and they) look out for each other.”


We understand that like you, Mona and Gina and were teachers for a while, and they were competitive runners. Tell us about how your children take after you.

They also took after their Mum who was a teacher and track athlete. Mona just loved sports and physical activity. She still does. I guess that’s why she is a Personal Trainer now; she was a teacher for 8 years. Soma was talented but didn’t like the sun, so she took indoor CCA* – she sang in the choir, and performed at the Youth Festival Opening Ceremony and SEAP Games Opening Ceremony in 1983. Gina was a 200m champion in Catholic Junior College but she didn’t like the stress of competition, though she enjoyed the friendship with her team mates.

Is there still significance to the term ‘Koyok’, as written in the book, C Kunalan by Steven Quek? If so, what does it mean to you now?

My wife calls me Koyok and I call her Koyok. We don’t use any other names. Koyok is a Japanese medicated plaster. When we were in the Teachers Training College Athletics team, the members used to call each other Koyok – friendship as strong as and as healing as Koyok the medicated plaster. Somehow we two stayed stuck together – we have a strong friendship, and a healing friendship.

Now that your children are grown up, what is your role of Dad like?

I am in ‘standby mode’. They know that I am available, and I am here to be the support in everything they ask for. I try to be a sounding board when needed.

What are some of the lessons that your children have taught you?

Trust them.

Based on your experience in teaching young adults, can you share some tips for dads today, on mentoring youths and young adults?

One: Don’t nag.

Two: In addition to the three R’s; reading, (a)rithmetic, (w)riting, add the fourth R – Reasoning.

See any ‘conflict’ as a teaching situation in which every issue must be broken down to its barest – the starting point and end point.

Three: Live your life as you would want your children to live it.

Four: Change your approach as they grow up – from childhood, to the teenage years, to young adulthood, and to adulthood.

Five: If you have an ‘argument’ with son or daughter, be positive about how it should end: Do you want to hold on to the position that, “Father is always right” and, have your children remember you that way (that is, being unable to see alternative arguments)?

Or do you want to show them that, “Father is not afraid to say sorry” and always tries to present several scenarios and discuss the outcome of each?

What do you think would help fathers most, given the social and cultural environment that is prevalent in Singapore?

‘Modernise’ your thoughts, actions, and philosophies. Attend fatherhood seminars where as many situations are listed, analysed and discussed. Also, reflect on how the situations (faced by young people today) are different from those in your time.

Be aware of why things are different, and the ways in which the new situation is better or worse. It is no use saying, “Young people nowadays…” and blaming them for something we created in the first place.

*CCA – Co-curricular Activities for students in Singapore’s formal schooling system.

About the Author: The Dads for Life Resource Team comprises local content writers and experts, including psychologists, counsellors, educators and social service professionals, dedicated to developing useful resources for dads.

First published on 07-05-2012

Categories: Dads' Stories

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