Monthly Archives: September 2008

Newsflash: Alonso breaks drought to win inaugural Singapore GP

My thoughts:

I have to admit that I am not an F1 fan. That is why I’ve not been posting anything on the Singtel Singapore GP on the blog.

But judging from the number of times the terms “Singapore GP” and “Formula One” have been used to search for my blog, it seems that there are quite a number of readers out there who are interested in the Singapore GP, and who have been checking the blog to see what news they can get on it.

So, as a reader service, I am reproducing this report from on tonight’s race:

The report:


Fernando Alonso ended his and Renault’s long victory droughts after his fortunes turned on their head in a dramatic first ever Formula 1 race under floodlights in Singapore.


The former world champion finally claimed his 20th victory a year on from his last, and the team’s first since the 2006 Japanese GP, with an unlikely triumph from 15th on the grid.


Williams’s Nico Rosberg came home an in an extraordinary second place, while Lewis Hamilton increased his championship lead to seven points with the final podium place.


Alonso was ironically the main beneficiary from a crash on lap 15 from team-mate Nelson Piquet Jr which brought out a safety car and triggered a total shift in the balance of power of the race.


Pole-sitter Felipe Massa had led comfortably from main title rival Hamilton in the opening laps – but the Brazilian’s race fell apart following a chaotic first pit stop which saw him leave his pit box with his fuel hose still attached which knocked a mechanic over.


After driving down the pit lane with the hose flailing from his F2008, he stopped before the exit and after his crew eventually managed to disengage it, Massa slumped to the back of the field.


Up until this point, Alonso – who had looked fast all weekend until a fuel feed problem eliminated him in Q2 in qualifying – had been driving a race heading nowhere after a short first stint had failed to get him higher than 11th.


But it was that first stop on lap 12 that ultimately put him in the lead of the race when, after several laps behind the safety car, all of the other cars all pitted.


It allowed Alonso to dictate the race from the front and he finished 3s ahead of Rosberg – who finished an astonishing second despite serving a 10s stop-and-go penalty for pitting while the pit lane was still closed.


Hamilton lost positions during the safety car stoppage but still came home third to increase his title lead over Massa to seven points with just three races remaining.


Timo Glock scored an important five points for Toyota in fourth, ahead of Toro Rosso’s Sebastian Vettel and BMW’s Nick Heidfeld.


David Coulthard, like Alonso, benefited from an early stop to finish in the points for just the second time this season in seventh, with Kazuki Nakajima completing a stunning day for Williams with the final point.


Ferrari’s already disastrous day was compounded when Kimi Raikkonen crashed out from fifth place with four laps remaining – meaning that, combined with Massa’s 13th place, means it loses the lead of the constructors’ championship to McLaren.



Singapore Grand Prix result (61 laps)


1.  ALONSO        Renault        


2.  ROSBERG      Williams      +2.9s


3.  HAMILTON     McLaren       +5.9s


4.  GLOCK          Toyota        +8.1s


5.  VETTEL         Toro Rosso    +10.2


6.  HEIDFELD     BMW           +11.1s


7.  COULTHARD   Red Bull      +16.3s


8.  NAKAJIMA      Williams      +18.4s


9.  BUTTON        Honda         +19.8s


10. KOVALAINEN    McLaren       +26.9s


11. KUBICA        BMW           +27.9s


12. BOURDAIS      Toro Rosso    +29.4s


13. MASSA         Ferrari       +35.1s


14. FISICHELLA    Force India   +43.5s


15. RAIKKONEN     Ferrari       +4 laps


R.  TRULLI        Toyota        +10 laps


R.  SUTIL         Force India   +11 laps


R.  WEBBER        Red Bull      +31 laps


R.  BARRICHELLO   Honda         +46 laps


R.  PIQUET        Renault       +47 laps


You can also check out a pretty entertaining lap-by-lap report on the race by the BBC Online here:

Here’s an excerpt:

Lap 17: The pit lane is open… Felipe Massa immediately comes in and HE’S TAKEN THE FUEL HOSE WITH HIM!!! What the??? The Brazilian drives off with the hose still attached, leaving one of the pit crew floored. Massa is sitting in his stricken Ferrari at the end of the pit lane. The crew run down after him and manage to pull the hose off – but that’s his race ruined.



And finally, here’s a collection of 20 great photographs on the Singapore GP from the Guardian Online, one of my favourite news sites. I must admit I felt a tinge of pride just looking at them.

as well as a quote from BBC Live Radio Five commentator David Croft:

“If you were in a spaceship looking down on this trac, you’d be impressed no matter wha planet you come from.”

Steady lah.

Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan

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Let the S’pore Sports Awards break down the barriers between our disabled and able-bodied athletes

The reports/letters:

There’s been a recent rash of letters in the Forum pages of The Straits Times and TODAY lamenting the lack of media coverage of our Paralympians in action at the Beijing Paralympics and clamouring for more equal treatment of our disabled athletes in light of their historic medal wins at the Games.

Most, if not all, are asking for better monetary rewards to be given to the likes of Yip Pin Xiu and Laurentia Tan after their gold, silver and bronze medal achievements at the Games.

Currently, able-bodied Singapore athletes get $1 million for a gold medal, $750,000 for a silver and $500,000 for a bronze at the Olympics. These rewards are given under the Singapore National Olympic Council’s Multi-Million Dollar Award Programme (MAP).

In stark contrast, our Paralympians get $100,000 for a gold, $50,000 for a silver and $25,000 for a bronze. These are given out by the Singapore National Paralympic Council under its Athlete Achievement Awards scheme which was only put in place in January this year.

You can read two such letters here and here.

My thoughts:

I am truly heartened by the growing collective voice of support for our disabled athletes.

As I wrote in my previous posting “New dawn beckoning for Singapore’s disabled athletes“, I think it’s a wonderful sign of a maturing Singapore society, one that is showing signs of being increasingly kinder, gentler and more inclusive.  

At this stage, it’s probably too late – and too early – to ask for our Paralympians to be given the same sort of monetary rewards as their Olympic peers.

Let’s face it. The Athlete Achievement Awards have been in place since January and no one really created a din about the unfairness of it all until now. And I guess that’s because there was little public knowledge of what the Paralympics are about, and little expectacy of our athletes delivering a medal, much less a gold, at the Beijing Paralympics.

Even Tan Ju Seng, the president of the Singapore Disability Sports Council, hailed the establishment of the AAA as a “foundation to recognise the achievements of  disabled athletes” (The Straits Times, 15 January 2008)

Essentially, this was what the Singapore Totalisator Board agreed to give (or fund up to 80 percent), and this was accepted with much gratitude by the SDSC back then.

And unless, some generous sugar-daddy corporation comes forward to pump in more money to boost the rewards that Yip Pin Xiu and Laurentia Tan will now be getting (and unfortunately, we haven’t heard of any coming forward just yet),  I feel it is unfair to suddenly turn to the Singapore Tote Board to ask for more money.

Instead, let us look at all these as small but positive steps forward. 

I think it’s good that our Paralympians are already getting a not-insignificant amount of financial reward for their achievements, as a way of acknowledging the hours of hard work, toil, sweat and tears that they have put into their training. 

And I am hoping that this growing public support, and increased public awareness of our Paralympians will lead to improvements being made to the AAA in time for the next SEA, Asian, Commonwealth and Paralympic Games.

But I do feel that there is one symbolic way by which the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports, the Singapore National Olympic Council and the Singapore Sports Council can show that our Paralympians deserve to be seen in the same light as their able-bodied counterparts.

And that is to open up the nominations for the 2008 Sportswoman of the Year and Coach of the Year Awards to our Paralympians and their coaches – and to keep it like this permanently.

That will certainly go a long way in issuing a statement to the public that all sporting achievements, whether by our able-bodied or disabled athletes, are equal in the eyes of our sporting authorities.

It would be great to see swimmer Yip Pin Xiu in the mix for the Sportswoman of the Year Award alongside the likes of Tao Li and Feng Tianwei. 

After all, her achievements are no small feats – three world records in a year (one at the US trials, two at the Paralympics) and the honour of becoming Singapore’s first Paralympic gold medallist.

That compares more than favourably with what Tao Li (two Asian records, two national records, a fifth-spot finish in the 100m butterfly, and the milestone of being the first Singaporean swimmer to qualify for an Olympic swimming final) and Feng Tianwei (a third-placed finish in the World Cup and a women’s team silver medallist at the Olympics) have achieved.

(To be honest, when I read about how Pin Xiu overcame her disability – she has muscular dystrophy and risks losing her eyesight over time – and the fact that she may not be able to compete at the 2012 London Paralympics because of her condition, I can’t help feeling that she should be our Sportswoman of the Year. You can read about Pin Xiu’s struggles against her condition here and here).

Likewise, wouldn’t you say that Ang Peng Siong would make a far worthier candidate for Coach of the Year than national table tennis coach Liu Guodong? 

Ang has been more than a coach to swimmers Pin Xiu and Theresa Goh – he has been a mentor, an uncle, a father figure and a confidant to them and their parents.

More importantly, he succesfully fought the Paralympians to get sports science support in preparation for the Paralympics. You can read more about Ang’s contributions to the Paralympian team here.

When you compare that to how Liu ended up focusing more on the women’s team in the run-up to the Olympics, to the extent of neglecting the men’s team, and of favouring some members of the women’s team over others (which all, in turn, led to the controversial ‘Gao Ning-Lee Bee Wah” incident during the Olympics), I think the difference is quite clear to all to see.

It would be a significant day and a brand new chapter in the history of Singapore sport if Pin Xiu and Ang are not only nominated for the awards. And it would be fantastic if they end up winning them.

It’s all up to the MYCS, the SNOC and the SSC now. If this can happen, then you can expect more incremental changes to be made progressively to ensure that our disabled athletes are not only seen as equal to their able-bodied peers but are truly part of Team Singapore.

Fingers crossed.

Yours in sport,

Singapore Sports Fan

Related links:

15 Sept – Newsflash: Pin Xiu wins Singapore’s first Paralympic gold!

13 Sept – Newsflash: Swimmer Pin Xiu wins historic silver at Paralympic Games 

12 Sept: Newsflash – Theresa misses out on 100m breaststroke bronze at Paralympics

11 Sept: Newsflash – Laurentia Tan wins second bronze at Beijing Paralympics

10 Sept: New dawn beckoning for Singapore’s disabled athletes

8 Sept: Newsflash – Feng beats Wang to take bronze at World Cup

29 August – Singapore table tennis: Time for the new STTA regime to decide what are its values

26 August – Singapore table tennis: some foreign talents are clearly more equal than others.

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A toast to our rugby heroes of ’78 – and to some fundamental principles of sport

The report:

The New Paper carried a two-page spread entitled “Rugby Good Times” last Saturday (20 Sept 2008) on that legendary Singapore rugby team of 1978.

The spread was done to commemorate the team of ’78, which also marked its 30th anniversary that night with a small bash at the Copthorne Orchid Hotel.

For the uninitiated, that team of ’78 created Singapore sporting history that year by

– winning the Malaysian Rugby Union (MRU) Cup for the first time in 44 years,

– finishing third in the Asian Rugby Championships (ARFU), its highest achievement at the ARFU till this day and

– winning the Singapore National Olympic Council’s Team, Coach and Sportsman of the Year Awards in an unprecedented treble sweep. 

You can check out the two-page spread here

My thoughts: 

As I mentioned before in a previous post, the achievements of that 1978 national rugby team remains the pinnacle of Singapore rugby and is still much talked about in hushed, reverential tones in rugby circles.

And of course, if you were a member of that legendary team, you would – deservedly – wear that membership like a badge of honour and, I am sure, your voice will always be brimming with pride each time you recount the yet-to-be-repeated-or-surpassed achievements of your team.

I think one reason why that team is so revered and fondly remembered to this day is because of what they represented: a bunch of passionate Singaporeans who showed that nothing is ever impossible if you set your heart and minds to the task, and if you showed the willingness, determination, and most importantly, the heart to succeed.

And mind you, these guys weren’t even professionals.

They were amateurs who were not paid for the sacrifices they made to train and play for their country.

In fact, as one of The New Paper reports mentioned, each of them actually paid $25 from their own pockets to travel by overnight train (so as to save on accomodation as well) to Kuala Lumpur to compete in the MRU Cup.

Not only that, they also obediently took everything that Singapore coach Natahar Bava threw at them at training (See reports “Siong Sundays” and “Fitness Training 1978-style“). 

One former Singapore international told me several years ago: “Nat (as Natahar Bava was knwn) killed us at every training session, man. He’d drill us until we vomited. Every time. 

“But you know something? We never hated him. We respected him and we would do whatever he made us do because he drilled it into us that we were doing it all for Singapore. He was the best coach we ever had.”  

What also captured the public’s imagination about this rugby team was the way the players were willing to lay their bodies down on the line for glory.

As another friend, a former sports journalist, who covered the team during the glory years of 1978 – 1982 told me:

“Reporters are supposed to be objective and netural when they cover matches, right?

“But when I saw our guys going into battle with the Kiwis in the MRU Cup, laying their bodies on the line against these huge 200-pounders who made them look like midgets, without flinching and without caring about their own personal safety, I just stopped being a reporter. There was no way you could continue being one.

“Instead, I became a fan cheering on my fellow countrymen out there in the field.”

As Natahar Bava said in The New Paper report: “All these stories of adversity, and the kind of competition we faced, made our achievements stand out.”

Truly, when one compares what that band of Singapore rugby amateurs went through back in 1978 to the way we won our table tennis silver medal at the recent Beijing Olympics, one just can’t help seeing the latter achievement in a lesser light, even though it is our first Olympic medal win since 1960.

Singapore rugby legend Song Koon Poh hit the nail on the head when he said in The New Paper article:

“For the younger generation who might not relate to us, we’d just like to remind them through this story that there was a rugby team in Singapore that did it before, and that the basic ingredients of hard work and perserverance still remain in sports after all these years.”

Unlike the 2008 Olympic silver medal achievement, there was no flagrant abuse of the Foreign Talent Scheme, no parachuting in of new naturalised China-born citizens into the national team at the eleventh hour, and no neglect of local talent development in the way that Singapore rugby team went about winning the MRU Cup and finishing third in Asia in 1978.

(Don’t get me wrong. Once again, I reiterate strongly that I have nothing against Li Jiawei, Feng Tianwei and Wang Yeugu. In fact, I take my hat off to them for the hours of blood, sweat and tears that they put into training for their sport. My beef, rather, is with the way their national sports association went about manufacturing the team that eventually resulted in that achievement) 

So, thank goodness then for our Paralympians Laurentia Tan and Yip Pin Xiu.

Their triumphs (see “Related links’) at the Beijing Paralympics have, I strongly feel, helped to restore not only some real pride and perspective back into Singapore sports, but also our faith in the fundamental principles of integrity, hard work and perserverance.

Because, at the end of the day, it’s not winning that truly counts. It’s how you go about achieving that win.

Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan

Related links:

15 Sept – Newsflash: Pin Xiu wins Singapore’s first Paralympic gold!

13 Sept – Newsflash: Swimmer Pin Xiu wins historic silver at Paralympic Games 

12 Sept: Newsflash – Theresa misses out on 100m breaststroke bronze at Paralympics

11 Sept: Newsflash – Laurentia Tan wins second bronze at Beijing Paralympics

10 Sept: New dawn beckoning for Singapore’s disabled athletes

24 July: Remembering the National Stadium – Best Memory #5

18 June: Singapore Table Tennis: is there more – or less – than meets the eye?

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