Tag Archives: Singapore Athletics Association

The previous SAA management is wholly at fault for the timing system fiasco that Dipna had to suffer

The report:

This report appeared in today’s edition of The Straits Times:

Dipna denied by glitches (The Straits Times, 4 April  2011)

Electronic timing system fails, so her national marks aren’t recognized

By Terrence Voon

POOR Dipna Lim-Prasad. The 19-year-old sprinter and hurdler was in sizzling form at the Singapore Athletic Association (SAA) Track and Field Series 3 at Nanyang Polytechnic yesterday, ‘breaking’ two national records.

But a historic day for the youngster turned sour when she learnt that both ‘records’ – in the 100m hurdles and the 200m – would not stand because of a glitch in the electronic timing equipment.

Had the timings been admitted, seasoned observers say it would have been the first time a Singapore track athlete had set two national records in different events on the same day.

Instead, it was a weekend in which nothing went right for Dipna. On Saturday, she was disqualified from the 100m dash after a false start.

Yesterday came the 100m hurdles, when her time of 14.30sec would have lowered the previous national record of 14.56, which she set in January. But a technical malfunction put paid to the feat in her pet event.

Later, the electronic timing system failed to work again in the 200m, where she clocked 24.50sec. The result, had it stood, would have broken Prema Govindan’s 26-year-old time of 24.54sec.

A disappointed Dipna said the technical problems had ‘shattered her dreams’. ‘I didn’t false start, the headwind was okay, everything was there,’ she added. ‘But I forgot to pray for the electronic timing to work.’

The timing system used by the SAA, called FinishLynx, has been in service since the 1990s. Breakdowns are rare, said SAA’s general manager Ong Yeok Phee, although there were at least four instances yesterday when it failed.

But Dipna’s coach Slava Vassiliev said a similar problem occurred at the previous week’s Singapore Press Holdings Schools Relay Championships.

‘They must buy a new system because this is not the first time something like this has happened in competition,’ he said. ‘People want to qualify for the South-east Asia Games and break national records.’

The SAA has clarified that it will still recognise Dipna’s results – under a category for hand-timed national records.

But that is little consolation for the Nanyang Technological University freshman, who had returned to the track recently after a year-long injury layoff. ‘They have acknowledged my efforts, but to me it’s not official,’ she said.

Her next race is at the Thailand Open in two weeks’ time, where she hopes to meet the 100m hurdles’ SEA Games qualification time of 14.21.

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My thoughts:

I was so dismayed when I read this and I cannot begin to imagine the huge sense of disappointment Dipna must be feeling.

But to be honest, I don’t think all blame should be shouldered by the current management of the Singapore Athletics Association. I strongly feel that the accusing finger should be pointed at the previous regime.

During his running battle with the Singapore Sports Council, during the period when the SSC stopped its funding of the SAA, then-president Loh Lin Kok had proudly and cockily boasted that the national body had enough funds (reportedly more than $1 million) in reserve to keep going on its own steam for a while.

Now this in turn begs the question: if there were enough funds, then why wasn’t any of it ever used to upgrade the electronic timing system?

I mean, the ST report says that the current system used by the SAA, which failed four times during last weekend’s Track and Field Series 3, has been in service since the 1990s. So, shouldn’t that have raised alarm bells a long time ago?

How can one reasonably expect electronic systems to last for 10 to 15 years when laptops and other gadgets these days have a shelf life of up to five years? Where was the foresight and forward planning in the SAA back then?

And now it has led to such an unnecessary  fiasco, and it has rendered a historic feat by a rising talent completely meaningless. And to think that the previous management had officials and coaches with such high-level IAAF credentials and qualifications. Shame on them!

I am not going to blame the  current SAA management entirely even if the system had supposedly failed during the Singapore Press Holdings School Relay Championships. I really don’t think they could have gotten a new replacement in such a short space of time.

But the national body must now do the right thing by its athletes and buy a new timing system as soon as possible so that such incidents do not happen again.

As for Dipna, I can only hope that she is not badly affected by this incident and that she will bounce back from it in the most stunning way.

I am crossing my fingers too that she will gain confidence from the fact that she did break the two national records nevertheless, and use that to push herself to an encore performance at later meets and qualify for the South-east Asia Games.

Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan

 

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A reminder of the value of my passport in Singapore sports

The report:

This report appeared in today’s edition of The Straits Times:

Zhang ‘sacked’ by SBA

(The Straits Times, 24 Mar 2011)

By Jonathan Wong

NATIONAL shuttler Zhang Beiwen has paid the price for her string of disciplinary problems.

The 20-year-old, who has been serving a suspension since Jan 5 – the second time in six months the Singapore Badminton Association (SBA) has punished her – was informed by the association that her contract, which expires next Thursday, will not be extended.

‘It was not renewed,’ Zhang confirmed to The Straits Times last night. ‘I have a lot of thoughts about this decision but I don’t want to talk about it… There’s no use talking about it.’

Officials at the SBA declined to comment when contacted yesterday.

Zhang’s latest punishment arose after an alleged falling-out with singles chief coach Luan Ching, who felt that she had again defied his orders by breaking curfew over the New Year period.

Described in the past as a ‘problematic player’, Zhang was subsequently dropped from the national squad and barred from all training sessions since the start of the year.

Last May, she had received a three-month suspension without pay for displaying a poor attitude in training and tournaments, and for failing to carry out instructions from her coach.

The China-born Zhang came to Singapore in 2003 under the Foreign Sports Talent scheme and took up citizenship in 2007 when she was part of the Singapore squad that clinched a team bronze at the World Youth Championships.

But in April 2008, she walked out on the national team to play for various clubs in countries like Malaysia and Taiwan.

She was eventually persuaded to return seven months later and made her South-east Asia Games debut in December 2009, helping Singapore to a team bronze medal.

Once the country’s highest-ranked women’s singles player at world No. 28 last year, she was a notable absentee from the Republic’s team sheet at both the Malaysian Open and Korea Open in January and also the prestigious All-England Championships earlier this month.

Her ranking, however, has since dropped to No. 74, making her the lowest-ranked shuttler in the SBA stable that include compatriots Gu Juan (No.32), Fu Mingtian (42), Chen Jiayuan (48) and Xing Aiying (59).

But her ability on the badminton courts is unquestioned. At the Hong Kong Open last December, her last competitive outing, she took a set off then-world No. 1 Wang Xin of China before losing in three games.

While her chequered past has been well documented, Zhang’s future remains murky. When asked if she intends to stay in Singapore or return to China, she was again evasive.

‘I’m still thinking about it, nothing is confirmed yet,’ she said.

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My thoughts:

What are the chances of the sacked Zhang Beiwen going back to China?

Very high, I suspect, especially if she does not have any other academic or coaching qualifications to help her to make a living in Singapore.

And when she does, another red Singapore passport will be thrown into a rubbish bin because the athlete no longer has a need for it.

I am not blaming Zhang in this instance. If she has no family here, she will have no choice but to leave.

Her case reminds me of how throwers Du Xianhui and Zhang Guirong had to leave Singapore for China in 2006 after being dropped by the Singapore Athletics Association.

But in the past decade, we have also witnessed other FSTs who left Singapore on their own accord soon after getting their citizenship.

Three immediately spring to mind:

* Zhang Xueling (table tennis), who became a citizen in 2001 but left in 2007 to get married in China after winning a string of Commonwealth and SEA Games titles;

* thrower Dong Enxin who went AWOL in 2007 after getting his citizenship in 2001; and

* Xiao Luxi (badminton) who quit in 2004, a year after getting her citizenship, to go back to China because she was burnt out.

And what about the six hockey players from China who were recruited for the national women’s team back in the early years of the new millennium? I hear most have since returned to their country of birth after things did not pan out.

And I am sure there will be more examples to come in the coming years.

Bottom line: this is what the blessed Foreign Sports Talent scheme has effectively reduced our Singapore citizenship to — a cheap bauble easily given away to foreign-born athletes, most of whom, in turn, will easily cast it aside when they no longer have any use for it.

My deepest thanks to all these national sports associations who actively recruit foreign-born athletes to fill their national squads, for helping me to realise just how cheap my citizenship can be.

I am grateful, really I am.

Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan

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Newsbreak: Dipna Lim-Prasad breaks national hurdles record twice in a day

Dipna Lim-Prasad made a stunning return to her pet event – the 100m hurdles – this afternoon after spending a year away from the discipline because of an ankle injury.

The 19-year-old Nanyang Technological student ended up breaking her own national record not once, but twice, at the Singapore Athletics Association’s Track and Field Series 1 meet at the Bukit Gombak Stadium.

She first broke her record of 14.72sec in the morning by clocking 14.69sec in her heat – and then surpassed it with a magnificent 14.56sec effort in the final in the afternoon.

The result comes as a pleasant surprise as Dipna, who is coached by Georgian Viatcheslav Vassiliev,  had spent the whole of last year away from the hurdles on the advice of her doctors. Today’s races were her first in the event since late 2009.

Prior to that, she had set the national record of 14.72sec in September 2009.

To maintain her competitive edge during her stay away from the hurdles, Dipna subsequently turned to the sprints – and found herself making the headlines in November when she clocked the fastest time in the 200m since 1984.

Her time of 24.68sec at the IVP Track and Field Championships is the best time clocked by a woman sprinter since Prema Govindran’s 24.54sec in 1984.

A month later, she lowered that time further when she clocked 24.61sec at the Asean University Games.

So if she continues to work on her sprints, on top of her hurdles, the chances are high that we could well see her name alongside two national records in the near future – the 100m hurdles and the 200m.

The Singapore Sports Fan would like to congratulate Dipna and her coach on their wonderful feats today. Here’s to more record-breaking performances from Dipna this year (including one perhaps in the 200m?)

Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan

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