Sun, Feb 12, 2017 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan in Time: Taiwan’s female all-stars

Launched in 1966, the first Ten Outstanding Young Women award recipients include several notable names including track and field star Chi Cheng and conductor Helen Quach

By Han Cheung  /  Staff reporter

Tang Le-sung, right, receives a “Good Deeds Award” in 2012 for devoting her life to running the Ti-hwei Children’s Home since 1963.

Photo: Wang Min-wei, Taipei Times

Feb. 13 to Feb. 19

A 2011 news report states that while judging the 3rd annual Ten Outstanding Young Persons (十大傑出青年) awards in 1965, Chu Sung-chiu (楚崧秋) wondered why there weren’t any women among the nominees.

Chu thought that was unfair. “We should be kinder to women,” he thought, and launched the Ten Outstanding Young Women award in 1966, which is still held today.

While it’s undisputed that Chu is the founder of the female awards, there are some discrepancies between the report and official records. According to the Ten Outstanding Young Persons yearbook, Chu was a judge for the 4th annual awards, which took place in December 1966. The first award ceremony for outstanding women had already happened 10 months prior.

Also, the official rules for the Ten Outstanding Young Persons stated explicitly that all nominees had to be men, adding in parentheses, “We equally respect the accomplishments of young women in society, but we must follow the rules of [contest organizer] Junior Chamber International.” The awards remained male-only until at least 1987 when two women made the final cut — so there would be no reason for Chu’s puzzlement. Perhaps he was displeased instead.

Unfortunately, no alternative accounts could be found. Chu barely mentions his involvement with the awards in the book Interview with Mr. Chu Sung-chiu (楚崧秋先生訪談錄), listing it as one of several public services he started in his bid to rejuvenate the floundering China Daily News (中華日報).

Regardless of how things started, judging for the first class of outstanding women concluded on Feb. 13, 1966, with the award ceremony held 10 days later.


Several names stand out from this class — most notably Chi Cheng (紀政), who entered politics after a decorated track and field career where she was known as the “Flying Antelope,” “Yellow Lightning” and “Flying Woman of Asia.” Serving in the legislature and as national policy advisor to former President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), Chi still showed her feistiness at age 69 by publicly asking Ma to step down in 2013.

Chi had represented Taiwan in the Summer Olympics twice by the time of her selection — although she came up empty in both tries. She finally captured a bronze in Mexico City in 1968, earning Taiwan its second ever Olympic medal after Maysang Kalimud, better known as Yang Chuan-guang (楊傳廣), won a silver in 1960.

She would dominate the competition for the next two years, winning 153 medals over 154 tournaments, breaking or tying eight world records and was named the Associated Press Athlete of the Year in 1970. While heavily favored to win a gold medal in the 1972 Olympics, she never made it that far. She earned her final medal at the Asian Games in Bangkok on Dec. 11, 1970. Two days later, she injured her leg, cutting short her brilliant career.

Conductor Helen Quach (郭美貞) was born in Vietnam and educated in Australia and Italy, but she was eligible for the award since she had Republic of China citizenship. Prior to her selection, she represented Taiwan during the 1965 Malko Competition for young conductors in Denmark.

Later that year, she visited Taiwan for the first time under invitation from the ambassador to Italy, holding a series of concerts to great fanfare. In 1979, she moved to Taipei to start and run the Taipei Philharmonic Orchestra, which folded after four years.

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