Ex-Olympic swimmer Mark Chay wears many hats, his latest as NMP
Swim coach-administrator-businessman's latest role is that of NMP
Far removed from the sporting arena, the Istana will play host to a symbolic torch-passing from athlete to coach on Thursday.
Like his protege Yip Pin Xiu in 2018, former national swimmer and Olympian Mark Chay, along with eight other Nominated Members of Parliament (NMP), will be presented with the instruments of appointment by President Halimah Yacob.
Yip, the 29-year-old Paralympic champion swimmer, served a 2½-year term which ended last year, with her coach Chay, 38, beginning his own stint in two days.
While Yip laughed when asked if she had coached her coach on the finer points of his new role, she told The New Paper: "When we hang out after training, if we go for breakfast, we will talk...
"When he told me he was interested in it, I encouraged him and told him what being an NMP (was like), like the duties and expectations... so he knew what he was going into."
The NMP scheme was introduced in 1990 to ensure a wide representation of views in Parliament. The sports fraternity is one of seven functional groups, such as social service organisations and tertiary education institutions, invited to submit candidates for the role.
Chay's name was floated late last year and, after some deliberation, it was the Covid-19 pandemic that convinced him that he had causes to champion in Parliament House.
He said: "What made me decide was really the Covid-19 situation and how sport actually has an important part to play...
"Sport is that vehicle for social change. Sport can really ignite and rally a nation.
"We've seen that with Joseph Schooling... at the Olympics. We've seen that every time our Team Singapore athletes wear our national colours.
"There's something intangible that sport has. And when you participate in... mass participation (sports) events... you not only build that mental resilience when you go through a process of training... (and) achieving goals, you also go through that (process of) physical resilience.
"With Covid-19, we see a lot of social isolation, a lot of mental health issues and really sports can be that vehicle to help people out of these situations."
Besides Yip, another person Chay sounded out when he was ruminating about becoming an NMP was ex-national fencer and triathlete Nicholas Fang.
Fang, 45, who served as an NMP from 2012 to 2014, believes that the former Olympian is well suited to be the voice of the sports community because of his varied portfolio.
After a swimming career that yielded multiple SEA Games golds, a Sportsman of the Year gong and outings to the Athens and Sydney Games, Chay has built up a diverse CV.
It features chef de mission appointments at two major Games, chairmanship of the Singapore National Olympic Council Athletes' Commission and a stint as the chief executive of the Singapore Hockey Federation.
He is also currently the director of administration at the Global Esports Federation.
Chay is also a sports business owner, serving as director of swim school X Lab Pro and, beyond the sporting arena, he was the chief executive of Coleman College for over seven years.
Said Fang: "When he speaks about sports, he genuinely has looked at it from the entire spectrum - from an athlete to an administrator to a business owner and he has contributed a lot of his time as a volunteer...
"He can see it from a very holistic point of view... and he'll be able to share the benefits of this experience with other members of the House. We can all agree that sports doesn't necessarily have the highest profile at the national level."
Chay said he wants to highlight the plight of a sports sector badly hit by Covid-19; the importance of sport being a safe and inclusive space; and the potential to harness e-sports as a platform to engage youths and position Singapore as a global e-sports hub.
Beyond sport, he also hopes to champion the accessibility and funding of SkillsFuture courses to help Singaporeans remain employable.