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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18 thoughts on “Right move by STTA not to nominate Liu for Coach of the Year Award

  1. […] 20 March 2009 – Right move by the STTA not to nominate Liu for Coach of the Year Award […]

  2. Lim Jin Joon says:

    I feel Singapore should be graceful to give coach the coach award.We cannot be developed country if we are seems to be petty and unforgiving for small mistakes, Silver awards was the best in 40 years, let’s the poor coach have some dignity please.I want to be a proud Singaporean and be respected by China and the whole world will look up to us.

  3. […] – Singapore Dino: Singapore: Istana welcomes North Korean Scum Kim Yong Nam – Singapore Sports Fan: Right move by STTA not to nominate Liu for Coach of the Year Award [Thanks […]

  4. federer says:

    In this instance I too agree with STTA’s stand.

    As u quite aptly put it, Liu’s sporting philosophy is one of winning at all cost, where the end justifies the means. This is poor ethics and not the kind of professionalism we want to see in sports. The words of Liu even now shows that he understands nothing about sporting integrity. It is a good thing we chucked him for good.

    Notice also the people who are criticising LBW. There is one Ng Ser Miang person who is some big shot in the Spore Olympics Committee or something. This person imo is fanning the flames unnecessarily and appears to have some agenda.

    • singaporesportsfan says:

      Dear Federer

      I completely agree with you.

      I do think there was an agenda that motivated the decision not to award the Coach of the Year Award to anyone instead. And if this is so, then it is terribly ungracious.

      In the end, Singapore sport is poorer for this.


      • leftathome says:

        And what terribly ungracious agenda is that? SNOC getting petty about losing their 0812 funding to SSC? Not wanting to shell out some $$ in Global Economic Crisis? or something else entirely?? How short their memories are. Only 8 months ago they were lauding the performances of some of the coaches nominated; flying the President to Beijing to meet with coaches and athletes, welcoming them with masses of publicity at Changi airport after the Olympics, and all the feel-good comments in the media. Now they are so reluctant to make comment on why they won’t award Coach of the Year to any of these nominees… silence is golden.

  5. federer says:

    Lim Jin Koon: “I want to be a proud Singaporean and be respected by China and the whole world will look up to us.”

    Mr Lim, do you seriously think Singapore will get any respect for its sporting achievements from the rest of the world through the Foreign Talent scheme? Our players are all poached from China. Do you seriously think China will respect our achievements?

  6. cf says:

    Wasn’t Liu hired by STTA in the first place? Was Liu not required to have his coaching methods vetted by higher management in STTA?

    We don’t have to all agree with Liu’s coaching methods, just STTA.

    • singaporesportsfan says:

      Hi CF

      If I recall correctly, it was the Singapore Sports Council that took over the training of the men’s and women’s national teams early last year in the build-up to the Olympics, because the SSC felt that our table tennis teams offered the best hope for an Olympic medal.

      That was why Antony Lee was seconded from the SSC to the STTA as national team manager.

      Lee Bee Wah was only named president of the STTA in July, a month before the Games.

      So perhaps, it was the SSC that was either remiss in vetting Liu’s coaching methods,or tacitly approving of them.

      Yours in sport

  7. […] 20 March 2009 – Right move by the STTA not to nominate Liu for Coach of the Year Award […]

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  9. Huiyi says:

    FACT: Silver Medal Won for Singapore
    FACT: Tactics are commonly used in interschool/international arenas (welcome to the real world n it is the same as my next point)
    FACT: More $$ is put into a sport where the chances of winning are higher (isn’t it just as unfair)
    FACT: Treatment of different sports pple from within same sports/different sports representing Singapore exists.

    Its always unfair, it has always been the way the game has played. Mr Liu Guodong, deserves the award for his achievement but it does not mean that the other coaches do not deserve it.

    Shouldn’t Ms Lee Bee Wah being the president of the STTA who was also present at the Olympics take the same responsibility as the coach or at least some responsibility?

  10. edosan says:

    it is very sad that we cannot be gracious and give the guy (coach) what he deserve. winning a silver medal in the olympics, say what you like, is an achievement beyond any normal person. It is team work and lots of determination by both the coach and the players. the effort cannot be ignored, regardless.

    there are many passionate people who would readily jump into the role of a winning table team and be the chairperson with little persuasion to lead the team and do the right thing, and that is to honour those who did well for the team.

    The right thing to do is then to reveal what went wrong and fixed it. for the leader of stta to get so personal with coach liu doesn’t reflect well of her as a person and singapore that she represent.

    how can we ever have people that make the difference if we have leader who can’t show compassion, graciousness and leadership in building confidence in the sport.

    It is obvious that her skill set is not a good reflection of a politician… I am sad just by taking this effort to comment.

    my recommendation is to do the right thing, be gracious enough to show singaporeans that we value the merits of individuals who excel. liu was punished for what stta claims as misconduct, but it is stupid to denial him his credits.

  11. CE says:

    Felt that Liu was just a 棋子used by those who are obviously not happy with LBW. Tan Eng Liang is (in my perception) DEFINITELY one that 危恐天下不乱!!!
    Felt this saga was started by SNOC. There were no necessity for them to reveal to public that they had suggested STTA to reconsider the coach award nomination….. etc etc….
    my humble views; a sales manager is not necessary deemed to do a good job even if he has achieved his given sales target! Did his achievement come at the expense of sales profitability? His boss is likely to look into the strategy/method he used. Was it for the benefit of the company in the short/medium/long term? Or the possibility that it is only a hit and run kind of affair! Also the sales manager is likely to be asses on his ability to plan/organise/motivate/gel his people as a team towards achieving a common goal!
    personally i felt nothing wrong for coach Liu to focus his attention on the women team that has a higher chance of winning a medal and attractive financial incentive for him! The flaw lies in the structure on how he will be financially awarded based on the medal achieved! Liu was here to work for $$$. I DO NOT BELIEVE HE LOVE SINGAPORE!!!

    Let us also not forget the fact that another female player Wang had stated before that she has had been unfairly treated when Liu was in charge!!! Liu has already got paid probably in accordance to whatever contract he had with the previous STTA!

    But as to if he should be nominated for the coach award is a decision which have to be left to the CURRENT STTA. There is really no need for SNOC and Tan Eng Liang to initiate the issue at all !!! whatever excellent opinion Tan Eng Liang or/& SNOC have on Liu shall remains as their opinions only! Everyone is entitled to his/her opinion but it should not imposed or demand an explanation when others are different from yours! It is irritated to see these guy acting like a bully against LBW!
    It is also very frustrating that neither LBW’s boss nor any heavyweight minister stepping out to speak and support LBW publicly! Are they so fearful of Tan Eng Liang and his group (in SNOC)?
    I would lose my respect on the PAP MP (& govt) should LBW has to say “sorry” again openly in public!!!


    • singaporesportsfan says:

      Dear CE

      Thank you for your feedback. I totally agree with you on this.

      CE’s last paragraph reflects my suspicions about the hidden agenda. At the end of the day, think it is clearly all about certain characters in the SNOC being unhappy with LBW and the STTA for ‘marring’ Singapore’s Olympic success and this was an opportunity for them to stir up some s**T againt LBW.


  12. Irene Chan says:

    Everyone was working under pressure especially the coach. We must respect the strategy of the coach. He has to use his limited resources.
    It is easy for armchair critics to find fault with him.
    Go into the ‘battlefield’ and you will be a different person from one sitting comfortably in the armchair.
    The main problem was that we were too poor to employ another coach. There was jealousy and other coaches sabotaged Liu for his achievement. Other players were jealous of the best player. Everyone was biased. Only the results spoke the truth.

  13. CE says:

    Below was extracted from Radio live 93.8 (website.au/connectasia/stories/200905/s2571422.htm)
    SEN LAM: So what were some of the reasons that were cited by the Table Tennis Association for not giving Liu the award or even nominating him?

    BHARATI JAGDISH:The Association’s president Lee Bee Wah had said that results are not the only criterion to getting the award. A coach of the year has to be professional, have integrity, be able to get the team together, institute the culture of camaraderie and has to be well respected by all of his players and he, of course, added that if you ask the six players who competed at the Beijing Games whether he is deserving of the Coach of the year award, less than half will agree.

    My Humble Views;
    LBW was just simply explaining their qualifications to be consider for the coach award. Professional and Integrity were just among the few criteria that she had listed. LBW’s reply was quoted out of context and people were just practicing selective hearing….and of course Tan Eng Liang was happy to flame up these wrong perception that LBW has attack on Liu’s integrity and professionalism….

    who does Liu think he is? just because we had our medal entitled him to demand an explanation or called for a meeting with STTA according to his desire?! i don’t understand why the press/TV were giving Liu so many coverages…
    There have been many instances where the press and TV media did not project all the Facts to the public! Many readers also tend to read only the headline but not the text in details.

    Liu has had already been rewarded for getting the medal. Being nominated for the coach award is not an entitlement!!! STTA and LBW are not obligated to explain and justify to Liu why he was not nominated!

    Liu flying to Singapore last few days was solely his choice and decision. There were NO PRIOR agreement on STTA to meet Liu BEFORE he flew in to Singapore. The subsequent attempts BY STTA to meet Liu (when he was ALREADY in Singapore), I see it done as a goodwill from STTA!

    Then is Liu really taking ALL Singaporeans as a fool when he said he loves Singapore and would teach for free!!! How is Liu going to pay for his living expenses?

    Liu has also been barking for a long time that he wanted to sue STTA or LBW….
    The quickest Liu can start his legal action, the soonest commoners like us would have the chance to know more…. For by law, all parties will be required to speak truthfully when in court….
    Liu, please stopped being a NATO and proceed with your legal action now ! If not then it is better that you “Shut Up & Sit Down”….

    • singaporesportsfan says:

      Dear CE

      Thank you for your feedback.
      I think you have succinctly summed up the whole matter. I too am tired of this saga which I feel was unneccssarily started by the SNOC Sports Awards Judging Panel in the first place.

      In the first pace, it was ridiculous of the Panel to say that there was no worthy contender just because Liu was not nminated. What bloody rubbish.

      Liu’s constant barking is just an attempt to extract s much political mileage from this wholeepisode as possible. At the end of the day, I think that LBW is just being bashed because she is a Member of Parliament.

      I also find it highly amusing that there was such public outrage over this matter. After al, didn’t the same LBW bashers proclaim back in August that there was no sense of pride to be dervied from a team of Chinese nationals winning an Olympic medal for Singapore in the first place?

      Here’s more food for thought: is Liu being backed by some Singapore “sugar-daddies”? During his four-day stay here, he lived at the five-star Meritus Mandarin. That’s about $250 a night. That works out to about a bill of $1,000. It must be that Liu is either making a heck of a lot more money in Indonesia, or that there are some ‘forces’ who are backing him financially.

      If the latter, then I wonder who are these ‘forces’ and their political agenda.

      Thanks once again for your comments


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