Gloria Beck was a star athlete in Singapore’s inter-school competitions in the mid-1950s. Her well-rounded athletic ability led to her being selected to represent Singapore in several events at the 1955 Malayan A.A.A. Championships.
A boarder at the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus, she triumphed in the school’s 1954 sports championships, winning medals in four events. She was first in the 80-metre hurdles and runner-up in the 100-yard sprint, high jump and long jump events. The next year, she was first in high jump, long jump and 80 metres hurdle and second in the 100 yards.
Excelling at sport was not easy for her. She once said: “Life in the Convent was tough and the nuns were very strict... Most of us were poor and although many of the staff were supportive, there were no funds to speak of for our activities.”
At the first Singapore secondary schools athletics meet in July 1955, Gloria was a multiple winner and record smasher – the only competitor to win in three events. She scored an upset victory in the 100 yards final, beating Janet Jesudason by a yard, and won the long jump and finished second in the 220 yards behind Janet Jesudason. She also set a new girls’ school best for the 80-metre hurdles in 13.8s, one-tenth of a second better than the existing record.
At the Malayan A.A.A in August 1955 against athletes from Johore and Selangor, Gloria bagged points to help Singapore’s eventual victory. She was third in the long jump and 80-metre hurdles.
With Mary Klass, Janet Jesudason and Joyce Sim, Gloria’s team clocked 51.8s in the 4x110 yards relay, only three tenths of a second off the championship record at the time. The team was first but was disqualified for overrunning at the third leg.
In 1956, Gloria left the convent to study for her A-levels but remained connected to sports through the Girls’ Sports Club (GSC), Singapore’s first formal group to represent women in sport. Formed in 1930 for Eurasian girls, the GSC later opened its membership to all Singapore citizens.
As a representative of GSC, Gloria competed in the Netball League in 1960. She was also in the softball team, introduced in 1960. She was voted Best Pitcher in the Softball Women’s Handicap K.O. tournament when the GSC’s Jets softball team were winners in 1967.
A committee member of GSC, Gloria was Honorary Treasurer in 1961 and 1963. She held the post of Honorary Secretary in 1968.
Gloria died in November 2015 aged 78, shortly after learning that she was to be inducted to the Singapore Women’s Hall of Fame.