BORN
1948

DIED
2020

INDUCTED
2021

CATEGORY
Sports

THE HONOURED INDUCTEES TO THE SINGAPORE WOMEN’S HALL OF FAME

ANNABEL PENNEFATHER

Trailblazing sports administrator and lawyer

When she was in primary school, Annabel Pennefather was asked what she wanted to be when she grew up. She was keen to travel and see the world, and so said she would like to be a flight attendant, or to study foreign affairs.

Her parents, however, encouraged her to pursue a more conventional path, like law or medicine. She chose law – and went on to more than make her mark in the legal profession.

But there was no escaping her sporting genes. Annabel was born to a sporting family. Both her parents were national hockey players, and her grandmother was Alice Pennefather, one of the most outstanding sportswomen in Singapore of her time. (Alice Pennefather was inducted to the SWHF in 2016.)

Unsurprisingly, Annabel also more than made her mark in sport and in sports administration.

A national hockey player from the age of 16, Annabel captained the national women’s team from 1970 to 1980. She later served as a sports administrator in national and international sports federations and as a technical official at the Olympic Games.

In 1999, she was the first woman to be co-opted to the executive committee of the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC), and in 2006 she was elected SNOC vice-president – the first woman to hold the post. Annabel remained a member of SNOC’s Executive Committee until 2018. She was the first woman president of the Singapore Hockey Federation in July 2004.

In 2002 she was Singapore’s Chef de Mission at the Commonwealth Games, the first time a woman headed Singapore’s contingent at a major international sports meet. She was again the Chef de Mission at the 2004 Olympic Games, the 2006 Asian Games, the 2010 Commonwealth Games, and the 2013 SEA Games. In 2005, Annabel was awarded the International Olympic Committee’s Women and Sport Trophy for Asia.

Annabel graduated from the University of Singapore in 1971 with a law degree and joined the law firm of Donald & Burkinshaw. Just five years later, she became the first woman in the firm’s 100-year history to become an equity partner. In 1995, she was elected the Vice-president of the Law Society of Singapore, one of a handful of women to serve in this position. She also served on a wide range of other boards and committees.

A routine medical examination in 1996 proved to be a turning point. The doctors discovered a 2.5cm hole in her heart, and she had immediate surgery. Had she waited any longer, she would have needed a heart transplant.

“You have to accept that you’re not Superwoman,” she said. She relinquished her extra-curricular posts, such as the vice-presidency of the Law Society, to concentrate on sports administration. “I decided there are lots of lawyers who could do that job, but not as many women sports administrators.”

In 1999, Annabel initiated and chaired a Women and Sport national conference that led to the formation of the Women and Sport Group that worked with the Singapore Sports Council on programmes to get more women and girls into sport.

In 2004, she became a consultant for the sports law practice at Harry Elias Partnership. Five years later she re-joined Khattar Wong LLP, where she had been an equity partner in her earlier years of legal practice, as a senior consultant with its sports law practice. When Khattar Wong LLP and international law firm Withers became fully integrated in 2019 she continued as a senior consultant for Withers KhattarWong LLP’s international sports law practice.

In 2015, she was one of the first two women – and the first Singaporean – to be appointed to the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Ethics Board. When the IAAF changed its name to World Athletics in 2019, she was appointed as one of the members of its Independent Disciplinary Tribunal.

As a sign of her increased recognition as a sports lawyer and adjudicator by international sport organizations, Annabel was also appointed President of the International Hockey Federation Judicial Commission, a member of the Badminton World Federation External Judicial Expert Group , a member of the Commonwealth Games Ethics Commission, and the Independent Member for Asia on the International Cricket Council Dispute Resolution Committee.

For her many contributions to Singapore, Annabel was awarded the Public Service Medal in 2001 and the Public Service Star in 2012. In 2020, her health problems returned, and she died of heart failure.

ANNABEL PENNEFATHER

Trailblazing sports administrator and lawyer

BORN 1948   DIED 2020
INDUCTED 2021   CATEGORY Sports

When she was in primary school, Annabel Pennefather was asked what she wanted to be when she grew up. She was keen to travel and see the world, and so said she would like to be a flight attendant, or to study foreign affairs.

Her parents, however, encouraged her to pursue a more conventional path, like law or medicine. She chose law – and went on to more than make her mark in the legal profession.

But there was no escaping her sporting genes. Annabel was born to a sporting family. Both her parents were national hockey players, and her grandmother was Alice Pennefather, one of the most outstanding sportswomen in Singapore of her time. (Alice Pennefather was inducted to the SWHF in 2016.)

Unsurprisingly, Annabel also more than made her mark in sport and in sports administration.

A national hockey player from the age of 16, Annabel captained the national women’s team from 1970 to 1980. She later served as a sports administrator in national and international sports federations and as a technical official at the Olympic Games.

In 1999, she was the first woman to be co-opted to the executive committee of the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC), and in 2006 she was elected SNOC vice-president – the first woman to hold the post. Annabel remained a member of SNOC’s Executive Committee until 2018. She was the first woman president of the Singapore Hockey Federation in July 2004.

In 2002 she was Singapore’s Chef de Mission at the Commonwealth Games, the first time a woman headed Singapore’s contingent at a major international sports meet. She was again the Chef de Mission at the 2004 Olympic Games, the 2006 Asian Games, the 2010 Commonwealth Games, and the 2013 SEA Games. In 2005, Annabel was awarded the International Olympic Committee’s Women and Sport Trophy for Asia.

Annabel graduated from the University of Singapore in 1971 with a law degree and joined the law firm of Donald & Burkinshaw. Just five years later, she became the first woman in the firm’s 100-year history to become an equity partner. In 1995, she was elected the Vice-president of the Law Society of Singapore, one of a handful of women to serve in this position. She also served on a wide range of other boards and committees.

A routine medical examination in 1996 proved to be a turning point. The doctors discovered a 2.5cm hole in her heart, and she had immediate surgery. Had she waited any longer, she would have needed a heart transplant.

“You have to accept that you’re not Superwoman,” she said. She relinquished her extra-curricular posts, such as the vice-presidency of the Law Society, to concentrate on sports administration. “I decided there are lots of lawyers who could do that job, but not as many women sports administrators.”

In 1999, Annabel initiated and chaired a Women and Sport national conference that led to the formation of the Women and Sport Group that worked with the Singapore Sports Council on programmes to get more women and girls into sport.

In 2004, she became a consultant for the sports law practice at Harry Elias Partnership. Five years later she re-joined Khattar Wong LLP, where she had been an equity partner in her earlier years of legal practice, as a senior consultant with its sports law practice. When Khattar Wong LLP and international law firm Withers became fully integrated in 2019 she continued as a senior consultant for Withers KhattarWong LLP’s international sports law practice.

In 2015, she was one of the first two women – and the first Singaporean – to be appointed to the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Ethics Board. When the IAAF changed its name to World Athletics in 2019, she was appointed as one of the members of its Independent Disciplinary Tribunal.

As a sign of her increased recognition as a sports lawyer and adjudicator by international sport organizations, Annabel was also appointed President of the International Hockey Federation Judicial Commission, a member of the Badminton World Federation External Judicial Expert Group , a member of the Commonwealth Games Ethics Commission, and the Independent Member for Asia on the International Cricket Council Dispute Resolution Committee.

For her many contributions to Singapore, Annabel was awarded the Public Service Medal in 2001 and the Public Service Star in 2012. In 2020, her health problems returned, and she died of heart failure.

“I would say my philosophy to life is to give my best and more in any role that I find myself in, especially roles that may not have previously been open to or occupied by women. In this regard, I continue to remind myself and others that, whilst it is important to be the first, it is more important not to be the last.”

“Sports is a test of the human spirit. I drew so much from sports—the challenges and the joys. I’m grateful for my awards. But I asked myself, how can I help others to use sports to develop opportunities for themselves?”

“When I walked into the stadium at the Opening Ceremony of the 2004 Athens Olympic Games to the deafening roar of the welcoming spectators so many thoughts rushed through my mind that it just brought tears to my eyes. Here I was at the birthplace of the Olympic Games. The Olympics was also in my family’s sporting heritage as my late father had led the Singapore’s men’s hockey team at the Melbourne Olympics in 1956. When I accompanied him to the airport for the team’s send off at the age of eight, I just wanted to be on that plane with them, and now I was at the Olympics.”

Profile photo courtesy of Mediacorp/TODAY