Monthly Archives: March 2009

Right move by STTA not to nominate Liu for Coach of the Year Award

The report:

This report came out in The Straits Times on 18 Mach 2009:

Liu not up for top coach award (The Straits Times, 18 March 2009)

 

By Leonard Lim

 

A PROMINENT name will be missing when Singapore National Olympic Council selectors sit down to decide on the Coach of the Year award.

 

Checks yesterday showed that former national table tennis head coach Liu Guodong was not among the list of nominees submitted by the Singapore Table Tennis Association for the SNOC’s annual awards.

 

The deadline for national sports associations’ submissions was last Friday. The judges are expected to meet next month or in May, and a gala ceremony to honour the winners is scheduled for June.

 

The accolades are the country’s highest sporting honours, and include those for the Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year.

 

The Olympic silver medal-winning women’s table tennis team of Li Jiawei, Wang Yuegu and Feng Tianwei have been nominated for the Team of the Year.

 

Liu was expected to be a major contender for the Coach of the Year category after his role in delivering Singapore‘s first Olympic medal in 48 years.

 

Liu, now the head coach of Indonesia, said over the telephone from Jakarta yesterday: ‘I think I’d have been a shoo-in for the award, after giving so much joy to Singaporeans last year.

 

‘I contributed so much in my three years in Singapore, but now my achievements are not being recognised.’

 

Under him, the paddlers also swept all seven golds – a first – at the 2007 South-east Asia Games in Thailand.

 

Last March, the 34-year-old also led the women to a silver at the World Team Championships.

 

STTA president Lee Bee Wah declined comment when contacted.

 

The nominees in the coaching category include Mervyn Foo, who coached AMF World Cup bowling champion Jasmine Yeong-Nathan.

 

Previous winners include football’s Raddy Avramovic (2007) and water polo’s Tan Eng Bock (1977).

 

Chris Chan, the SNOC’s secretary-general, said the organisation’s task was to select the winners, with achievements as the main criteria.

 

He said: ‘It is up to individual NSAs to nominate whoever they feel deserves to win.’

 

And while Lee declined to give details, there are factors which could explain why the STTA did not put Liu’s name up.

 

The Henan native was held responsible for the ‘Gao Ning’ incident, where Singapore‘s No. 1 men’s player found himself with no coach for his Olympic third-round singles match. He crashed out to a lower-ranked Croat.

 

In October, Liu – whose contract ran out at the end of last year – also rejected a new two-year offer, calling it ‘insulting’ and ‘insincere’.

 

But a veteran sports official, who declined to be named, said: ‘Even if Liu’s left, his track record speaks for itself.

 

‘He would have been a worthy winner, and the win would have been good for continuing to raise the sport’s profile.’

My thoughts:

The Singapore Table Tennis Association and former national table tennis coach Liu Guodong may have parted ways less than amiably, especially after the China national had described the new contract that the STTA offered him as ‘insulting’ and ‘insincere’.

But I don’t think there is any malice behind the national sports  association’s decision not to nominate Liu for the Singapore National Olympic Council’s Coach of the Year Award.

Nor do I think that the decision lacked graciousness nor a sense of  gratitude to the man who helped to deliver Singapore’s first Olympic medal in 48 years at the Beijing Olympics.

Instead, I feel that the decision not only shows the integrity of the new management that is now helming the association but also gives us a strong idea of the sort of sporting values that it holds dear.

Liu may be a top coach but the methods he employed to get that silver medal for Singapore were far from palatable. In fact, when they were revealed, they really left a bad taste in the mouth.

In the aftermath of the ‘Gao Ning fiasco’, which resulted in STTA president Lee Bee Wah’s public chastising of Liu and nationa team manager Antony Lee, which in turn led to the souring of the so-called euphoria that surrounded Singapore’s capture of the women’s team silver medal at the Olympics, we now know that      

i. the preparation and training of the men’s team for the Olympics was considered a lower priority than that of developing the women’s team

ii. the members of the men’s team were used as sparring partners for the women’s team,

iii. the men’s team had to share rooms at the Olympic Village whereas each member of the women’s team had individual single rooms

iv. some women players were favoured more than others. In fact, one of the strongest rumours floating around the table tennis community prior to the Olympics was how everything was done to try to ensure that a particular player would get as high a world ranking, even to the point of ordering the other members to lose to her when they ended up facing her in the finals of ITTF Pro Tour tournaments.

Truly, I was sickened when I read all these revelations in the aftermath of the Olympics.

Which is also why I instantly  lost my respect for Liu as a coach. 

Yes, he may have the expertise and the technical ability to lead teams and players to the top, but it is also clear that his value system is a barren wasteland.

“I would rather the women come in second and the men come in 16th than for both teams to come in fourth,” was what Liu told the media when queried about his coaching methods.

I do not subscribe to the philosophy that the ends always justify the means.  

So I don’t believe that the Olympic silver medal that was won meant that all the things that were done to ensure its capture were therefore justified.

I believe in sportsmanship, in fairness and in the notion that everyone deserves an equal chance at development so that they will be at their peak and most prepared when the time comes to do battle on the international stage, regardless of whether such a philosophy might affect our chances of winning an Olympic medal.

At the end of the day, there are just some things that are more important than a bloody sports prize.

And so yes, I do believe that the STTA did the right thing in opting not to nominate Liu for the Coach of the Year Award.  

I believe that the calculated move is one loaded with meaning, and that it sends the right reassurances and mesages not just to the table tennis community but to the Singapore sporting community at large.

So, take a bow, STTA. 

Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan  

Related links:

26 Aug 2008 – Singapore Table Tennis: Some Foreign Sports Talents are clearly more equal than others

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

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

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Good coverage on Ting Wen today. But please, Sir, can we have some more?

Let me start this post by giving credit where credit is due.

And today, credit is due to The Straits Times for giving swimmer Quah Ting Wen the sort of coverage she deserves for her triple national record-breaking feat at the recently concluded 40th National Age-Group Championships.

As a passionate fan of local sports, you can imagine my joy this morning when bleary-eyed, I stumbled to my dining table with my morning coffee, and saw on the front page of the morning broadsheet the photograph of  Ting Wen with a broad smile on her face. 

And the front page treatment was followed up by a good report on the 16-year-old Raffles Junior College student’s hat-trick feat.

In fact, the report went further than just a straight report on Ting Wen breaking the national 100m freestyle record, how it was her third record in three days, and how it was so unexpected because she had only resumed training at the start of the year and had treated the Age-Group Championships.

It also examined her potential to be a future Asian Games champion based on the timings she clocked. The prognosis: almost there. Two of her three timings would have won her a silver and a bronze at the last Asiad.

In other words, Ting Wen is beyond becoming Singapore’s next Joscelin Yeo, who essentially shone brightest at SEA Games level. No siree, Ting Wen is on the road to becoming the next Junie Sng, the only local-born female swimmer to have ever won gold at the Asian Games. (Want to know more about Junie Sng, the queen of Singapore swimming back in the 1970s? Click here.)

Prettygood job lah, ST, I thought, as I read – and re-read – the reports.

I guess one of the reasons why I was so pleasantly surprised and delighted by today’s reports on Ting Wen is because I feel we don’t get enough of such write-ups about our local athletes on a regular basis.

To be fair, one cannot say that there isn’t adequate coverage of local sports in the papers.

But in recent times, it seems to be all about official events, pronouncements by governmental and top local sports officials, and even about sporting events that people feel little affinity with.   

I remember looking on with amazement at the amount of space devoted to the recent Singapore leg of the Volvo Ocean race.

I don’t remember a single word of any of the reports because I didn’t read any of them.

Why? Because I feel no affinity or attachment to the race.

Likewise, I usually barely glance at all the stories about making Singapore a top sporting hub, about organisational plans for the 2010 Youth Olympics and about carnival-like events aimed at drumming up awareness about the YOG. 

Ditto the recent deluge of reports on the wedding preparations of our top table tennis player. Yucks.

I feel that our local sports coverage could do with more such write-ups and features on our local athletes: their personalities,  their achievements and their moments of agony in defeat, and for the young, fledgling ones in particular, their development and potential for greater things.

Cynics may be tempted to ask: but what is so great about some of our local athletes that is worth highlighting about?

After all, some of them can’t even win medals at the SEA Games, whose standards  competition are the lowest among all the multi-sports competitions that Singapore takes part in.

My reply: Are you a national athlete? And are you anywhere near SEA Games standards yourself?

If not, then why mak it your first instinct to knock these athletes?

And isn’t the passion they have for their sports, the belief in themselves, their personal motivations, the long hours and hard work that they put into their training, and the personal sacrifices that they make worth a second look?

Of course, one isn’t asking for blind coverage in such instances.

If the athlete isn’t good enough even at SEA Games level, then by all means, acknowledge that gap, or address it by finding out what it is that is causing that athlete to fall short. 

I guess that is also why school sports is given such short shrift by the newspapers in recent years.

Apart from covering the national finals, there isn’t really very much written about the athletes themselves. 

But nobody reads school sports, I can hear the cynics say. I beg to differ.

Write a profile piece on a school athlete and I will bet you that you will have 1,000 people from that school reading the report the next day.

I will also bet you that that report will subsequently find pride of place in one of the school’s notice boards so that it can be preserved for posterity and read by new incoming students.

Ditto for the minor sports. You hardly hear or read anything about aspiring cyclists, judokas, taekwondo and wushu exponents or even boxers.

Nobody cares about these sports, you say? Once again, I have to ask in return: can one be so sure?  Can one be so certain that there are no compelling stories to be found in these sports?

Has there, honestly, been a devoted and concerted effort to find out more?

Back to the report on Ting Wen today. It was a good read but alas, I am also under no illusions here.

Such write-ups are just going to make very – and I stress VERY – occasional appearanes in the sports pages of our newspapers.

Still, as the Hokkien saying goes “Boh herh, hae mah hor” (Attempt at direct translation: No fish but at least there are some prawns).

Even then, I would rate today’s coverage as an 8/10.

Reason: there was no space given to the likes of Rainer Ng, Shana Lim Amanda Lim, Lionel Khoo, Issac Joseph Schooling  et cetera et cetera, who broke more than a handful of national under-17 and Under-14 records altogether.

It would have been nice to have been able to read a little something of these swimmers and their achievements ( you can find out their achievements here) because the National Age-Group Championships were not just about Ting Wen alone.

Now that would have made it a perfect 10 morning for me today.

Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan

Related links:

17 March: A return to remember – Ting Wen marks first competition after Olympics with three national records

15 March: Wonderful Saturday – Ting Wen breaks national record; Lay Chi qualifies for SEA Games

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A return to remember: Ting Wen marks first competition after Olympics with three national records

Quah Ting Wen made her return to competitive swimming one to cherish and remember for a long time when she completed her hat-trick of new national records on the last day of the 40th National Age-Group Swimming Championships at the Singapore Sports School pool.

The 16-year-old Raffles Junior College student, who took a break from swimming after the Beijing Olympics and only resumed training at the start of the year, broke the national 100m freestyle record yesterday, during the Girls 15-17 years event.

She clocked 55.80secs to smash Joscelin Yeo’s 10-year-old record of 56.05sec, which was set at the 1999 South-east Asian Games in Brunei. 
 
It was also her third national freestyle record in three days. 
 
On Friday, Ting Wen had broken the national 50m freestyle record, also held by Joscelin. She followed that up by breaking the national 200m freestyle record on Saturday. 
 
And as it were in the 50m and 200m freestyle events, Ting Wen’s time in the 100m freestyle was also a new national Under-17 record. It eclipsed the time of 56.14secs which she had set at the Beijing Olympics. 
 
The Swimfast Aquatic Club swimmer’s achievements at the Championships will be a huge boost to her confidence and morale as she gets down to the task of qualifying for this December’s SEA Games in Laos.

Apart from Tao Li, Ting Wen is also expected to play a big part in delivering the bulk of Singapore’s gold medals in swimming at the biennial regional Games. 

Her feat yesterday also meant that a total of five national open records were broken during the course of the Age-Group Championships.

The other two were contributed by Parker Lam, who set a new men’s 50m breaststroke mark of 29.59sec, Mark Tan who clocked a new national mark of 2min 20.71sec in the men’s 200m breaststroke.

Yet, the total haul could well have been seven if Rainer Ng and Shana Lim had both been a shade faster in their respective events.

Rainer had tied the men’s national 50m backstroke mark of 26.96sec while Shana Lim had equalled the women’s national 50m backstroke record of 29.20sec.

A total of 15 national age-group records were also re-written during the three-day long Championships: 10 under-17 records and five Under-14 marks. There were also two national under-17 marks that were tied.

You can see the full list of new records set at the Age-Group Championships and their owners here.

Swimfast Aquatic Club, the swimming school run by former national swimmer and occasional national coach David Lim, emerged at the top of the overall standings with 58 golds, 50 silvers and 27 bronzes.

Chinese Swimming Club was second with 39 golds while ACE Swim Club, which is helmed by See Puay Kheng, finished third with 33 golds.

Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan

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