As you can tell from my previous postings, one of the reasons why Singapore Athletic Association president Loh Lin Kok came out with guns a-firing after being criticised by Sports Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan and Senior Parliamentary Secretary (Community Development, Youth and Sports) Teo Ser Luck was the national 4x100m relay quartet’s surprise silver at the SEA Games.
After watching Gary Yeo, Muhammad Elfi Mustapha, Muhamad Amirudin Jamal and Lee Cheng Wei smash the national record, go under the 40-sec barrier for the first time, and book their tickets to the Asian and Commonwealth Games, Loh triumphantly used their feat to show that, contrary to public perception, the SAA is achieving results at regional level.
Loh told The New Paper:
“Today, I’m very proud of my 4×100m team which won the silver medal behind the Thais, despite all our known setbacks.
“We did it all since April this year – the start of our financial year – without a single cent in funding from the SSC for preparing for this SEA Games. We spent $140,000 since, from our reserves to help pay our staff, coaches, train athletes for this SEA Games.”
Likewise, Loh triumphantly told The Straits Times:
“It’s really a case of double elation. The team broke the 40-second barrier and they are raised by our own funding. This silver is worth a lot. To me, it is at least half a gold medal.
“The 4x100m silver medal is proof that the SAA is rejuvenating. Our development plans are starting to bear fruit.’’
Trust The New Paper to go a step further.
Instead of taking Loh’s words at face value, they decided to find out just who was the actual coach of the boys making the national relay squad. The result is the report below.
And The New Paper report raises three pertinent points:
- why wasn’t Melvin Tan, the coach of five of the sprinters in the relay squad, sent to the SEA Games?
- why wasn’t he even publicly thanked or acknowledged by ANY SAA official for his role in developing the runners?
- now that Melvin has been revealed as the real coach of these sprinters, who did not receive any funding from the SAA for grooming these sprint talents, and who was not even given the chance to be with his boys in Laos, what exactly does the SAA mean by ‘our development plans are starting to bear fruit’?
Does it mean taking the fruit of other people’s labour?
Why don’t you be the judge? Here’s the report by The New Paper for you to read:
Unknown HERO behind the relay HEROES
(The New Paper, 19 December 2009)
By Ernest Luis
THE MAN responsible for training the Singapore 4x100m relay runners who won a surprise silver on Thursday was nowhere to be seen celebrating with them in Laos.
Instead, Singaporeans watched a tearful sprints coach Hamkah Afik celebrating with the quartet of Gary Yeo, 23, and Elfi Mustapha, Lee Cheng Wei and Amirudin Jamal – all aged 22 – as they helped to athletics complete a ‘two golds and one silver’ haul.
But the man who trained them regularly since – after the last South-east Asia Games – is Melvin Tan.
He was in Singapore minding his own business on Thursday.
Silent with pride that he played a part, he was shocked when The New Paper called him yesterday to meet.
So why was this silent reluctant hero behind the relay heroes, having coffee with The New Paper when a sprints coach like him should have been with the Singapore Athletic Association (SAA) SEA Games coaching team, together with Hamkah?
After all, in other sports like swimming, the competitors have their own individual coaches being part of the national coaching team sent to Laos.
The connection between Tan and the relay sprinters is that they are all his own runners from the Wings Athletics Club, formed in 2001.
Tan, 42, a sprints coach for Raffles Institution, is also the president of Wings.
Of the six sprinters sent to the SEA Games, Poh Seng Song – who didn’t run in the relay final – is also a Wings runner.
Tan told The New Paper: ‘The answer to your question about why I’m here sitting with you in Singapore, is history.
‘I joined the SAA from September 2004 to September 2005 before I left.
‘I wanted to help make things better for Singapore athletics but I found it impossible then with all the obstacles put in our way.
‘I’m not surprised to see Singapore athletics in the news for the right reasons and wrong reasons too, all at the same time.’
Tan read The New Paper yesterday and highlighted the plea of SAA’s president Loh Lin Kok.
Loh said SAA had been forced to spend $140,000 of its reserves to help pay staff, coaches and train athletes for this SEA Games – since April – when the Singapore Sports Council withheld funding from then on.
Tan told The New Paper: ‘I’ve trained the boys for free. I’ve not received any funding.’
In The New Paper yesterday, Mr Loh said a National Sports Association will have affiliates, and he mentioned the example of the Sports School and its jump coach Valeri Obidko being part of the SEA Games coaching team. That they all work together for Singapore athletics. That this is the system.
But Tan countered: ‘Wings is an affiliate of SAA. But we don’t get any funding from them (despite Wings providing five of the six sprinters in Laos). What is the system then?’
On the boys and Hamkah, Tan said: ‘I speak to Hamkah and they’ve done well there. The boys are the first team here to break the 40-second barrier for Singapore and that’s a historic breakthrough, but they have a long way to go and must keep their feet on the ground, as they are far behind at the Asian level.
‘I just train the boys on my own, for the sake of Singapore.
‘The SAA has to realise there is a problem here, and not paint the picture that there’s nothing wrong. I’m not the only coach in Singapore with a story like this.’
Yours in sport
Singapore Sports Fan