This letter was printed in the 29 June edition of The Sunday Times:
Level pit and cover all previous imprints ( The Sunday Times, 29 June 2008 )
I refer to Eric Song’s article in The Sunday Times of June 22, headlined ‘Calvin’s 7.45m is new long jump mark’.
The feat was achieved under a cloud of controversy, with officials accused of measuring the wrong distance following the two imprints in the sand after Calvin Cheng’s jump.
What happened on that day must not happen again, if we want to lend credibility to any national records broken.
In the first place, it was not fair to the athlete breaking the national record as it would cast a shadow of doubt. It would also not be fair to the previous national record-holder if the assessment of the new mark was not in line with international standards.
Imagine a soccer match in which the coach or team manager and other observers were able to go on to the field and have a dialogue with the referee and linesman on whether the goal should be allowed.
Back to athletics. This controversial long jump result would not have happened, if the pit was properly levelled to cover all previous imprints before each jump and the two officials were attentive to the proceedings.
If the officials who were next to the pit could not be 100 per cent sure of the jump imprint, how could others who were much further away? We need to upgrade the skills of our officials, so as not to take away the glory from an athlete.
Goh Hock Siang
I posted this letter because I thought it was really well-written and well-argued.
Most importantly, it asks the most important question that had remained unasked in the media reports of promising young jumper Calvin Cheng’s national record-breaking feat during the Boys U-20 long jump at the recently-concluded 34th Singapore Junior Athletics Championships:
Why wasn’t the pit properly levelled by the judges before Calvin’s record-breaking jump of 7.45m, which erased Kenneth Wang Kan’s previous record of 7.41m?
Clearly, it hadn’t been, and clearly the two judges at the pit weren’t attentive enough during the jump. Otherwise, there wouldn’t have been two imprints in the pit after Calvin’s jump, causing confusion among the judges (who had ruled the distance as 6.94m before doing a re-measurement upon Calvin’s coach’s protest and eventually declaring the final distance as 7.45m).
“We need to upgrade the skills of our officials so as not to take away the glory from an athlete”, said Mr Goh.
Mr Goh is spot on. Because of all the confusion surrounding the judges’ decisions, two athletes have been emotionally affected by the whole saga.
Kenneth is naturally upset because his national record has been taken away from him under such dubious circumstances, while Calvin must now put up with unneccessary doubts from some quarters about the authenticity of his record-breaking distance, until he gets another competitive opportunity to prove his critics wrong.
Sure, Singapore Athletics Association vice-president Loh Lin Yeow has come out publicly to defend his judges’ final decision – that the 7.45m distance is correct, and a new national record.
But that doesn’t alter the fact that ALL THIS COULD HAVE BEEN AVOIDED IN THE FIRST PLACE. And unfortunately, because it wasn’t, I feel that the SAA is all to blame for all this.
I mean, it is really pathetic to think that certain standards of judging and officiating could not be maintained at the Singapore Junior Athletics Championships, which is one of the few annual national-level events featuring the cream of the local junior athletics scene.
It will be interesting to see if there is a reply from the SAA to Mr Goh’s letter in this weekend’s issue of The Sunday Times.
I really hope there is. Otherwise, the silence from the national body would be very damning.
Yours in sport
Singapore Sports Fan
(Note: Picture of jumper taken from images.beijing-2008.org. Picture of “Judging the Judges” book cover from www.jeffooi.com)