Monthly Archives: February 2009

Loh Chan Pew receives POSB Everyday Champions Award while the SAA receives egg on its face

The report:

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

Loh has his wards to thank for award (The Straits Times, 27 February 2009)


By Lin Xinyi


HIS charges found the perfect way to relay the message that Loh Chan Pew deserves recognition.


Never mind that the Singapore Athletic Association was not prepared to grant him that – after recently axing the man who coached the national 4x100m women’s relay team to a national record in 2007.


Sprinters Amanda Choo and Ann Siao Mei were among those who nominated the 64-year-old for the POSB Everyday Champions award, which he received yesterday at an award ceremony at the St Regis Hotel.


Loh was one of 57 winners in three categories (individuals, coaches and organisations) to receive a trophy and certificate from guest-of-honour President SR Nathan.


The inaugural award is the country’s highest honour for sporting inspiration, and was created by merging the Sporting Singapore Inspiration Awards and the Coach Recognition Awards.


Addressing the winners, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports, said: ‘I hope you will continue to serve as inspiration for many others out there… and continue to teach values of life.’


Peter Churchill, who coaches national swimmer Tao Li; and Valeri Obidko, the coach of national triple jump record-holder Stefan Tseng, were among the other recipients.


Despite receiving 3,375 nominations – with 878 nominees in the coaches category – Singapore Sports Council member Richard Seow, who headed the award selection panel, said that the choice to award Loh was not a difficult one.


For Loh, his athletes are what matters most, in more ways than one.


He said: ‘The people who have worked with me know what I’ve done, and that is what’s most important to me.’


He also vowed not to give up on what he loves, despite the recent controversy.


‘I can be taken out of the association,’ he said, ‘but I will continue to scout, train and produce talents till I drop dead.’


Choo and Ann believe that the recognition is overdue.


Choo, who broke the national 100m record in 2007 under Loh’s tutelage, said: ‘He doesn’t just focus on what we do on the track. He cares about our welfare too.


‘He’s like a grandfather to us.’


My thoughts:

It is reports like this that amply demonstrate and show up the level of disconnect between the Singapore Athletic Association and its national athletes.

What is clear here is the strong affection that members of the national women’s 4x100m relay squad feel for their former coach Loh Chan Pew and how he has been more than just a coach to them.

It is clear that he is also a mentor, a father figure and a source of inspiration.

Which makes the SAA’s decision to sack Loh a couple of weeks back even more perplexing.

What I still don’t understand is the reason being cited for Loh’s dismissal – that he doesn’t have the qualifications to coach the squad.

I mean, did any of the higher sports bodies such as the Singapore National Olympic Council or the Singapore Sports Council hold a gun against the SAA’s head and tell it to get rid of Loh because he didn’t have a Level 4 or 5 coaching certificate?

Would the women be barred from competing in the 4x100m relay final at the SEA Games in Laos, or would they be disqualified or stripped of their SEA Games medals if they finish in the top three, just because Loh is not qualified enough?

By sacking Loh, the SAA has thrown the national relay squad into emotional turmoil and effectively sabotaged Singapore’s chances of a first SEA Games track medal since 2001. 

Thing is, does the SAA care? It probably does not.

And because people have short memories, here again is the piece of advice which I gave to the members of the national women’s 4x100m relay squad in my previous comment on this fiasco:

If you want to make the higher authorities sit up and take notice, if you want to drive home your frustration and anger at the SAA, then don’t quit the squad now.

Train hard for the SEA Games so that you will end up winning a medal or setting a new national record. Then, at that point in time, use the platform and opportunity to register your anger at the SAA over the way Loh was treated.

Here’s my previous entry again, ladies:

‘A piece of advice to the national women’s relay squad” (9 February 2009)

Have a good and hard think about it.

In the meantime, my heartiest congratulations to Mr Loh for winning the Award.

Inspirational coaches like you are hard to come by and I am very heartened by your determination to continue coaching, unearthing and grooming new sprinting talents for Singapore.

Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan

Related links:

12 Feb – Why sack Loh Chan Pew, asks reader in Straits Times Online forum

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STTA takes another step forward in developing local talent

The report:

This report came out on Channel News Asia yesterday:

Li Jiawei may not be featured in 2009 SEA Games (Channel News Asia, 24 Feb 2009)


By Patwant Singh


SINGAPORE: They delivered an Olympic silver medal last year, but Li Jiawei and Wang Yuegu may miss the upcoming SEA Games in Laos in December.


Since 1999, Li Jiawei has been a permanent fixture at the SEA Games, delivering many gold medals for Singapore.


But this year in Laos, she and team-mate Wang Yuegu may not be part of the five-member women’s team.


The Singapore Table Tennis Association said it is looking at a combination of local and foreign talents to lead the charge.


Among them are 19-year-old Zena Sim, 15-year-old Isabelle Li and 16-year-old Pang Xuejie, all students from the Singapore Sports School.


President of the Singapore Table Tennis Association, Lee Bee Wah, said: “Definitely Zena and Xuejie will be in. We are also looking at the possibility of fielding Isabelle. It will depend on whether they are ready or not.”


Member of the National Youth Team, Isabelle Li, said: “My personal aim is to close the gap between the local talents and foreign athletes… We are given a lot of support from the association, (and) sports school.”


But the association is not taking the SEA Games lightly.


Manager for high performance at the Singapore Table Tennis Association, Eddy Tay, said: “We are not compromising, so that’s why we are still keeping our three top senior players in the SEA Games squad.”


The women’s team will still have Feng Tianwei, who will be playing in her first SEA Games. She is ranked sixth in the world, while Li Jiawei is ranked seventh.


Other possible members are Yu Mengyu and Sun Beibei.


Feng said: “SEA Games is very important to us. If the senior players are not going, I will have to take up the leadership and lead the younger players at this SEA Games. Of course there is additional pressure, but I will try my best.”


Singapore won a record seven gold medals at the last SEA Games in Korat, Thailand. Whether the new team, to be selected by September, will be able to match that performance is still left to be seen.


The Singapore Table Tennis Association has given the assurance that it will give local born players more playing time at the SEA Games.


– CNA/yt

My thoughts:

Bravo, Singapore Table Tennis Association, and kudos to all of you for living up to your promises of trying to develop more local talent for the national men and women’s teams.

I am sure that the likes of Zena Sim and Isabelle Li will benefit greatly from being part of the five-women team to Laos. Now my only hope is that the two teenagers will not only get a lot more playing time during the SEA Games, but will also get to feature in the more crucial ties.

In previous years, because of the previous STTA’s single-minded pursuit of sporting glory to the exclusion of everything else, local talent would only get token representation in the national teams.

The STTA would select teens like Jason Ho, Pang Xue Jie, Jenn Lim Pei Qi and Zena for the SEA or Commonwealth Games so as to create the pathetic illusion that local players are indeed being included in the national teams.

They would play in the easier group matches before being made to sit out the rest of the  competition when their teams advanced to the quarter and semi-finals and then the finals. 

This time, the STTA has promised to give the local players more playing time at the SEA Games.

I do hope that this promise translates into them being given the chance to compete in the more crucial stages so that they know what it is like to play under intense pressure.

And I would really take my hat off to the STTA if either Isabelle or Zena is selected to play in the team final, if Singapore does make it that far.

It’s probably unlikely though.

After all, a team gold at the SEA Games is worth $20,000 under the Singapore National Olympic Council’s Multi-million dollar Award Programme (MAP).

As such, the STTA would probably want to field their strongest side to ensure that the $20,000 is as good as won, for the sake of all the members and coaches of the team.

My hope is that the STTA will be enlightened enough to field Zena or Isabelle in the final, especially  if they think that that either one of them is good enough to deliver one of the winning points for the team.

For that will truly be a new psychological breakthrough not just for the STTA but more importantly, for the many young talented local paddlers back home who dream of becoming national players one day.

Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan

Related links:

31 Oct 2008 – Winds of change starting to blow through the STTA halls

29 Aug 2008 – Singapore table tennis: Time for new STTA regime to decide what are its values

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Newsflash: Hakeem’s national 110m hurdles record not recognised by SAA

Oh dear, it looks like national hurdler Abdul Hakeem Abdul Halim has not broken Singapore’s oldest track record after all.

A technical cock-up at the 14th Asean University Games has caused Abdul Hakeem's national 110m hurdles record to be declared null and void

A technical cock-up at the 14th Asean University Games has caused Abdul Hakeem's national 110m hurdles record to be declared null and void (Picture courtesy of

A report in the Today newspaper back in December (‘Hakeem breaks oldest national track record, 17 Dec 2008) had proclaimed that the 21-year-old student had broken Osman Merican’s national 110m hurdles record when he finished second in the event in 14.45sec at the 14th Asean University Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Hakeem’s time was 0.31sec faster than Merican’s 14.76sec which was set 42 years ago at the 1966 Asian Games.

Since then however, the whispers going around in the local athletics community is that Hakeem’s timing may not be a new national mark after all.

Word had it that the Singapore Athletic Association would not be able to ratify the time because of the absence of a wind-gauge at Hakeem’s event.

And now it is confirmed.

When the SAA recently uploaded the latest updated list of national records, it listed Osman Merican’s timing as the national 110m hurdles record (see Singapore National Records )

This is such a pity and one cannot help feeling sorry for Hakeem for being the victim of a technical cock-up by the organisers of the 14th Asean University Games.

The Singapore Sports Fan hopes that Hakeem will bounce back from this disappointment and use it to drive him towards breaking the record this year.

Keep your chin up and keep up the great work, Hakeem!

Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan

Related links:

17 Dec 2008 – Hakeem breaks Singapore’soldest track record

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