Tributes pour in for S'pore's 'trailblazer for women in sports', Annabel Pennefather, who dies at 72

Immense contributions to the local sports scene.

Melanie Lim| April 27, 06:56 PM

Annabel Pennefather, the first female president of the Singapore Hockey Federation (SHF), has passed away on April 27, 2020.

Pennefather died of heart failure. She was 72.

Dedicated athlete, lawyer and president

As the daughter of two national hockey players, Pennefather had started playing the sport from a young age.

The national hockey player went on to represent Singapore in 1964, and continued to do so for the next 15 years, until 1979, CNA reports.

In 2004, Pennefather became the president of the SHF and led the association till 2012.

She later on became the first female Vice President of the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) and the first female Vice President of the International Hockey Federation (IHF).

Additionally, Pennefather also headed the sports law practice at Withers KhattarWong, and had served as Chairperson of the CHIJ Board of Management.

"A leading figure in Singapore sports"

In a tribute post by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Lee describes Pennefather as "a leading figure in Singapore sports" and a "trailblazer for women in sports".

Lee said that Pennefather had imparted important values to the younger sports talents and worked tirelessly to increase the opportunities for women and girls to participate in sports during her lifetime.

"She left an indelible mark on our sports scene," Lee said.

According to Team Singapore, Pennefather will be most remembered for "her gift to women and sport."

"Her relentless pursuit of excellence transcended her sport" and "she showed the female athlete (that) it’s possible to strike a balance between sport and a career," they added.

An "icon" and "outstanding official"

The SHF also called Pennefather an "icon" and an "outstanding official", stating that she had "led the way internationally in officiating and administration".

According to them, Pennefather "played a key part in securing Sengkang as the new Home of Hockey and oversaw the transition from Delta Stadium to Sengkang."

"Model athlete" who contributed both locally and internationally

Tan Chuan Jin, President of the SNOC, mentioned in a Facebook post that the SNOC and the sports community in Singapore will "miss (Pennefather) so very much".

Calling Pennefather a "model athlete and human being," Tan said that her "contributions over the many years have been immense, not just locally but internationally as well."

In a separate post, Tan wrote:

"We are deeply saddened by Annabel’s passing and send our deepest condolences to her family. Annabel was one of the pioneer women sports administrators in Singapore and was very passionate in championing the Olympic Movement and women in sports. Her contribution was not limited to Singapore. She was also invited and elected to positions at the Commonwealth Games Federation, Badminton World Federation, International Cricket Council, International Hockey Federation and World Athletics. We are grateful for all that she has poured in, and will miss her greatly."

Helped set up scheme to support young Eurasian sportspersons

Likewise, Alexius Pereira, President of The Eurasian Association in Singapore, stated that Pennefather had "always stepped forward to contribute to the EA, despite her busy schedule, serving Singapore, the Olympic movement and the legal profession."

"For example, in the 1990s, she served on the selection committee setting up the EA Endowment Fund, and more recently, she helped the EA set up the Joseph Schooling Sports Grant, which is a scheme to support young Eurasian sportspersons."

Due to be inducted into Singapore Women's Hall of Fame

The Singapore Council of Women's Organisations (SCWO) revealed that Pennefather was "due to be inducted into the (Singapore Women's) Hall of Fame this year" at their March induction ceremony.

However, the induction ceremony has been postponed to March 2021 due to the Covid-19 situation, and Pennefather will be inducted to the Hall of Fame then.

Key milestones in Pennefather's life:


  • Became captain of the National Women’s Hockey Team, serving all the way till 1980

1972 - 1977

  • Specialised in property law and international business transactions after graduating with a law degree from the University of Singapore
  • Was made the first female equity partner in a century during her 11-year stint with law firm Donaldson & Burkinshaw


  • Won the Outstanding Sports Administrator award


  • Became Vice-president of the Law Society of Singapore


  • Served as a board member for the Singapore Sports Council (SSC), all the way till 2004



  • Was the tournament director for Women’s Hockey at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games


  • Awarded the Public Service medal by the President of Singapore


  • Became Singapore's first female Chef de mission, serving at the 2002 Commonwealth Games


  • Led Singapore’s first sport and law practice
  • Became the first female president of the SHF, and led the association till 2012
  • Awarded Singapore's Woman of the Year
  • Became the first female chef de mission to lead a Singapore contingent at the 2004 Athens Games


    • Elected as the first female Vice-President of the SNOC, and held this position till 2018
    • Served as the chef de mission at the 2006 Asian Games


    • Served as the chef de mission at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi


    • Awarded the Public Service Star as a testament of her devotion to volunteerism


    • Served as the chef de mission at the 2013 SEA Games

    Top image via Team Singapore on Facebook