Janet Jesudason was a pioneer athlete who represented Singapore at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, one of just two women in the Singapore contingent.
Born in Perak, Malaya, to an Indian father and a Chinese mother, Janet moved to Singapore in 1950 when her father became a teacher at Raffles Institution. In 1952, the 16-year-old who was dubbed ‘Speedy Gonzales’ by her Katong Convent classmates was selected to represent the school at inter-school athletic meets.
In 1954, having moved to the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus, she ran the anchor-leg for the school’s 4x100 relay team at the inter-schools meet. The team set a new record of 55.1s.
The following year, Janet became a track star when, at the first secondary schools athletics meet, she shaved a tenth of a second off Olympic sprinter Tang Pui Wah’s 4-year-old record for the 100-yard race with a time of 12.1s.
Janet often trained with Mary Klass, whom she regarded as the golden girl of sprinting, at the Raffles Institution grounds. In 1956, Janet surprised herself by qualifying for the 1956 Olympics when she ran the 100-m sprint for Singapore’s Olympic trials and clocked 12.5s.
She joined Mary in the Singapore contingent at the Melbourne Olympics. Janet was disappointed to place fifth in her heats, but she took heart from words of Olympics founder Pierre de Coubertin: “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”
Janet continued to run for some time after the Olympics and was a member of Singapore’s 4x100 relay team which won first place with a time of 52.1s at the 1957 Merdeka Games. But after this, she retired from competitive athletics and trained to be a teacher, and eventually worked in England, France and the United States.
In 1980s, Janet returned to live in Singapore for some years and trained to be a docent at the Singapore National Museum. Now living in Australia, Janet continues her love of the outdoors with long walks in nearby bushland. She also swims.
She has become a qualified yoga teacher and recently completed a two-year teacher training certification in Vedic chanting in Chennai, India. She shares her ever-expanding knowledge and love of this ancient form of meditation and yoga with a circle of private students. She also gives specialist presentations at events such as the Australian Yoga Therapy Conference.
Speaking about her love of athletics, Janet once said: “I liked the discipline, the commitment, the training, the sweat, the accelerated heartbeat and the sheer exhilaration of competition, the general sense of well-being and the camaraderie of fellow athletes.”