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