Monthly Archives: May 2008

Newsflash: Four national records to go at Akira Swift Open?

If you are a local sports buff and would like to witness some sports milestones being re-written, why not go down to the Gombak Stadium this weekend to catch the Akira Swift Open Athletics Championships (31 May – 1 June)?

According to my sources, there is a good possibility that you could see up to four national records being broken. It seems that Singapore Sports School jumps coach Valeri Obidko is quietly confident that his young charges will deliver the goods at the sand-pit, namely, Stefan Tseng (men’s triple jump), Mariam Shazana (women’s triple jump) and Matthew Goh and Calvin (men’s long jump).

Stefan and Mariam just broke their own national records two weeks ago at the Pahang Open in Kuantan. Stefan leapt 15.71m to break his 15.69m mark while Mariam cleared 11.66m to break her exisiting mark of 11.36m.

Clearly, Obidko thinks that the two wonder teens are currently on some sort of momentum, one which could take them to new records this weekend.

On the other hand, Kenneth Wang Kan’s men’s long jump record of 7.41m, which he set at the 3rd SAAA All-Comers meet on May 18, is being threatened by national junior record holder Matthew Goh and rank outside Calvin Cheng. 

Matthew broke his own national junior record of 7.21m three weeks ago with a 7.23m leapt. He will be motivated to break Wang Kan’s mark because he needs to leap 7.45m before July to qualify for the IAAF World Junior Championships.

But it is Calvin who could be the dark horse to watch out for. Although his personal best is about 6.9m, he could well surprise everyone. According to sources, Calvin had achieved that distance against a strong head win but has cleared up to 7.5m at training.

So who knows? We could well see an intense battle between Matthew and Calvin on Saturday afternoon – one which could see a new record being set and then broken a couple of times.

And to think it had taken 26 years for someone – in this case, Kenneth Wang Kan – finally to break the national long jump mark (the previous mark of 7.34m was set by Ng Yee Ming in 1982). 

Meanwhile, national junior sprinter Calvin Kang will be the one to watch in the men’s 100m. The 17-year-old student, who holds the national junior record of 10.55sec, will be boosted by the recent news that the SAAA may send him to the Beijing Olympics on a wildcard. As such, he should be motivated to put in a good performance to further convince the selectors.

Could this result in a new national junior record?

Here’s wishing the athletes all the best. We wait with crossed fingers and bated breath.

Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan

 

 

 

 

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Giving credit where credit is due

The story:

The Straits Times carried a report on 28 May 2008 on the possibiliy of exciting young sprinter Calvin Kang being offered a wildcard to compete in the 100m at this year’s Beijing Olympics. According to SAAA chieftain Loh Lin Kok, this and the other recent successes by young Singapore athletes at the South-east Asian Junior Championships are signs that his national body’s efforts to create a new generation of Singapore athletes are slowly coming to fruition. 

My thoughts:

Last year was definitely a watershed year for Calvin as he amazingly brought down his times from sub-11sec to 10.55sec to emerge as Singapore’s fastest junior.

 

His rate of improvement brings back memories of how former national sprinter UK Shyam, under the guidance of Pedro Acuna, brought down his 10.8sec-timing to a national record-breaking and SEA Games silver-medal winning 10.37sec in 2001.

 

What’s even more exciting is the fact that Calvin is still only 17 while Shyam was 25 when he clocked the new national record.

 

It means the exciting possibility that Calvin could end up not only breaking the men’s national record in the near future but also becoming the first Singapore sprinter to clock a sub-10.1secs.

 

So I do hope he gets the wild card ticket to Beijing. The exposure can only do him good – and hopefully set him up for a medal finish at the 2009 SEA Games in Laos.

 

On another note, I found SAAA president Loh Lin Kok’s quote at the end of the ST report ( “It shows that my association’s efforts to produce a new generation is (sic) coming to fruition.” ) rather interesting.

 

Truth be told, Singapore athletics will not be enjoying the growing successes that it has been achieving in the past few years without the advent of the Singapore Sports School.

 

The School’s Track and Field Academy was in many ways a god-send to the SAAA because it meant that the cream of Singapore’s young athletics talent would now housed in one centre and given the proper systematic training and educational support to help them to maximize their sporting potential.

 

Before that, the Singapore track and field scene was really low level.

 

Promising athletes were not getting the sort of training needed to help them raise their standards and every talented youngster was just focusing their sights on winning medals at the national schools championships.

 

Once these goals were reached, save for a hardcore few, the majority would then happily drop out of track to focus on their studies. And because it didn’t have the expertise nor any other supportive structures to convince these kids (and their parents) that it would be worth their while to carry on with training after leaving school, there was simply precious little that the SAAA could do to stem the talent drain.

 

So, in my humble opinion, the best thing that the SAAA ever did was to sign that Memorandum of  Understanding and Partnership Agreement with the Singapore Sports School in 2003 to recognise the latter’s Track and Field Academy its youth development system.

 

Then, apart from occasional meetings and discussions, the SAAA wisely chose to leave the Track And Field Academy’s own coaches to do their work.

 

The results speak for themselves.

 

Just check out the national age-group, junior and Open records here and you can see that most of the new records were broken from 2004 onwards (the year the Sports School started operations) and that the bulk of the record-breakers are from the Sports School.

 

So come on, let’s give credit where credit is really due, hey?  

 

Yours in Sport

 

Singapore Sports Fan

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Go for it, Jasper (but alas, you’re no Kim Song)

The Story:

 

TODAY ran a report recently on the rise of impressive young goalkeeper Jasper Chan, who plays for the Young Lions, and who is tipped to give current Singapore No 1 Lionel Lewis a fight for the yellow jersey. Read the partial report here

 

My thoughts:

 

Interesting to see how the majority of Singapore’s greatest goalkeepers in the past 40 years have been Chinese. Between the 70s and the 90s, the names that stood out were Lee Bee Seng, Lim Chiew Peng, Edmund Wee and of course, David Lee.

 

 

Bee Seng, who is now the national goalkeeping coach, was once named “Asia’s Gordon Banks” after a string of brilliant performances between the sticks for Singapore at the 1975 Merdeka Tournament in Kuala Lumpur.

 

Lee (as in David) and Wee went on to become Singapore’s only goalkeepers to ever play professionally overseas. Wee went off to play for South China in the Hong Kong league in 1981 and stayed there for seven years while Lee signed on as a pro with Niac Mitra in the Indonesian league in 1982.

 

And one can stretch the list of examples further by including current Singapore No 1  Lionel Lewis. After all, he is of Eurasian and Chinese parentage.

 

And now we have 19-year-old Jasper rising up the ranks.

 

It looks like he’s got a lot of hard work ahead of him if he ever wants to displace Lewis, but the intense rivalry for the goalkeeper’s jersey can only be good for the two players – and for the Lions, as a whole.

 

And it would be great to see a true-blue Singapore Chinese in action for the Lions. Because currently, the stats tell a sorry tale, one that is almost laughable if it just wasn’t so sad: 70 percent of Singapore’s population is Chinese and yet the only two Chinese chaps we have in the national squad are from CHINA.

 

I won’t go into the reasons why there are so few Singapore Chinese players in our national teams. They have been cited ad nauseum in the media so it’s pretty pointless dredging all of them out again.

 

But this, in turn, has clearly had a major impact on the progress of Singapore football in the last 20 years. After all, there is only so much talent one can find if the bulk of the players willing to make football their rice bowl comes mainly from 15 percent of Singapore’s population.

 

This is probably also why national coach Raddy Avramovic has had to turn to foreigners to supplement the national squad. I am sure this will increasingly affect Singaporeans’ affinity with the Lions. Let’s see how that pans out.

 

Even if Jasper eventually makes it to the first 11, it’s unlikely that he will inspire a whole new generation of young Singapore Chinese footballers to pursue professional football as a career.

 

That can only happen when Singapore finally produces a talented Chinese Singaporean striker. Reason: it is the striker, not the goalkeeper, who is always regarded as the swash-buckling hero of the team, the man who will rescue the team from the jaws of defeat and lead them onwards to glory.

 

Just look at how the likes of Fandi Ahmad and Indra Sahdan Daud must have inspired many young Malay kids to dream of becoming professional footballers.

 

And I’m sorry, FAS, but if you think that Shi Jiayi and Qiu Li are going to do the same for young Chinese Singaporean players, think again. It won’t happen – because they will always be seen as foreign players co-opted into the national squad through its Foreign talent Scheme.

 

In that sense, Quah Kim Song was clearly the Singapore Chinese community’s last action hero (You can’t really count Steven Tan because he was known more for being a super-sub than a man leading at the fore).

 

Just how inspirational was Kim Song? Just put it this way: in the 70s, kids were proudly wearing Quah Kim Song t-shirts from the market.

 

Back then, even my Teochew-speaking nanny, who had no formal education, was able to say to me regularly when Singapore was still in the Malaysia Cup:

 

Sing ka pour ke meh wu xing giu bor? Ah si wu Kim Song, dia tiok yah eh.” (Translation: “Is Singapore playing tonight? Well, as long as Kim Song is in the team, we should win.”)

 

I kid you not.

 

So while I’ll be rooting for Jasper to wrest the No 1 jersey from Lewis (even though I don’t mind Lewis holding onto it for several more years because he is a really good keeper), I am well aware that it won’t beget a tidal wave of change in the ethnic make-up of the national squad.

 

You need a Quah Kim Song-esque character to do that, full of style, verve, character and most importantly, goals.

 

Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be anyone who can fill those legendary boots. For now or for many years to come.

 

Yours in Sports

 

The Singapore Sports Fan

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