Snub of Churchill and Foo shows that the Sports Awards are a farce

The report:

This report was published in today’s edition of TODAY:

It’s a cop-out, says Tao Li’s coach (TODAY, 7 May 2009) 

By Low Lin Fhoong  

THE Singapore Table Tennis Association’s (STTA) decision not to nominate Liu Guodong for Coach of the Year honours for this year’s Singapore Sports Awards has created quite a stir.

The selection committee, headed by Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) president Teo Chee Hean, revealed on Tuesday that they considered giving the Chinese coach the nod even without the national sports association’s endorsement, after he helped guide the women’s table tennis team to a silver medal at the Beijing Games last year.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo said that eventually, the committee felt the STTA’s decision not to nominate Liu held sway and for the ninth time since the award was introduced in 1969, there were no winners in the category.

Nominees Peter Churchill (swimming), Mervyn Foo (bowling), Brett Bayer (sailing) and Yuan Kexia (gymnastics) were bypassed, as SNOC secretary general Chris Chan said the committee felt the other candidates paled in comparison “to what he (Liu) has delivered so we felt there was no worthy winner”.

When contacted yesterday, Singapore Sports School coach Churchill expressed his disappointment over the selectors’ claim that the four nominees were not deserving of the accolade.

In a telephone interview with Today, the Aussie said: “It’s disappointing that they think the four people nominated are not good enough for it. That’s a pretty big cop out because there are other coaches who turned up on the day and did the job.

“The STTA didn’t want to nominate the coach for various reasons, it doesn’t mean that none of the other coaches are not worthy of being in the race for it.

“Its like if a marathon is on and the favourite for it doesn’t turn up, then well and good for everyone else. It doesn’t mean to say you don’t have the race.

“There were four people who were nominated, and one of them should win.”

Churchill, together with the Singapore Swimming Association (SSA) and Sports School, helped guide swimming sensation Tao Li to her first 100m butterfly Olympic final in Beijing, where she finished fifth.

The 19-year-old also won three gold and a bronze in the seven-leg Fina/Arena Swimming World Cup 2008 short course (25m) series, and bettered Natalie Coughlin’s 100m fly record in the Berlin-leg in the process.

The SSA had nominated Churchill based on his track record with Tao Li, and president Jeffrey Leow said: “Peter was Tao Li’s coach last year and he played a substantial role in helping her achieve what she did last year and it was a natural thing to nominate him for the award. We believe Peter deserved a shot at the Coach of the Year … but we respect the decision.”

Olympic shooter Lee Wung Yew felt Churchill should have been the next choice for the award.

“In a way, it’s unfair,” said the marksman. “If you put down all the coaches on the table, table tennis will win but he wasn’t nominated amid the controversy, so next in line would have been Peter Churchill because of his achievements with Tao Li.”

Former national swimmer David Lim echoed the sentiment.

“Peter Churchill deserved to win based on Tao Li’s performance,” said the Olympian. “Swimming is a competitive sport with over 100 countries participating in events like the Olympics, and Tao Li managed to finish fifth in her event.”

My thoughts:

This was for me the most relevant story of the day in the aftermath of the Singapore Sports Awards judging panel’s farcical decision  to not name a winner for the Coach of the Yar Award just because table-tennis coach Liu Guodong was not one of the nominees.

So kudos to TODAY for being sharp enough to pick this up.

As swimming coach Peter Churchill – who would have been the most deserving of the award in Liu’s absence – aptly puts it: “There were four people who were nominated, and one of them should win.” 

One can say that this situation is no different from that of the Sportsman of the Year Award.

The panel felt that all the nominees were not worthy of the Award and as such, decided not to name a winner this year.

I beg to differ. The field for this year’s Sportsman Award was quite a poor one.

If I am not mistaken, Remy Ong was probably the best contender for the Award but he was nominated for his achievements at Commonwealth Championships level, which, to be honest, at his level,  is quite a low-level achievement at a low -level international competition.

(Actually, I was surprised that golfer Lam Chih Beng wasn’t among the list of nominations. Given that he had won his first Asian Tour title, the Volvo Masters of Asia, last year, and also became the first Singaporean golfer to qualify for the final stages of the British Open, I thought he would have made a worthy recipient.)

But in the case of the Coach of the Year Award, it was a insult by the judging panel to declare that what the other nominees had achieved paled in comparison to the Olympic silver medal that Liu had guided the women’s national team to at the Beijing Games last August.

What complete and utter rubbish.

 Does the panel mean to say that Churchill’s efforts in transforming Tao Li, a no-hoper at the start of the Games, into

a)  the first Singaporean swimmer to qualify for an Olympic final and then,

b) into the first Singaporean swimmer to win gold and set a new record at  the Fina World Cup, 

pale in comparison to Liu’s?

Likewise, it was equally insulting of the panel to look down on Mervyn Foo’s efforts in transforming Jasmine Yeong-Nathan from a wallflower bowler into Singapore’s first winner of the AMF World Cup. 

If Jasmine can be named as the Sportswoman of the Year, then surely the logic must follow that the man behind her achievements should also be strongly considered for the Coach of the Year Award.

What I was most  appalled by though was the revelation that the judging panel had decided way before it convened that Liu should be the winner, and that it had considered giving him the Award even though he was not nominated by the Singapore Table Tennis Association.

Good grief! In that case, I would like to ask: why bother to even have a judging panel? 

Isn’t the word ‘judging’ a sham then, in this case?

In the aftermath of all this farcical nonsense, I think the best solution is to scrap the Awards altogether.

Instead, from now on, it’s probably best to just organise an annual Gala Night to celebrate and commemorate Singapore’s sporting achievements of the past year.

To Churchill and Foo, my deepest condolences.

I feel really sorry for the way you two unwittingly became pawns in such a silly game of  one-upmanship.

Singapore sport is truly all the poorer as a result of this.

Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan       

Related links:

5 May 2009 – Newsflash: Jasmine Yeong-Nathan is Sportswoman of the Year

20 March 2009 – Right move by the STTA not to nominate Liu for Coach of the Year Award

15 November 2008 – Newsflash: Jasmine is Singapore’s first AMF World Cup champion

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13 thoughts on “Snub of Churchill and Foo shows that the Sports Awards are a farce

  1. Ben says:

    I don’t understand why we should be so stingy in appreciating others. I would like to know if the judges were sports persons in their own right in the first place. e.g. Coaches should be judged by other coaches. Hiding behind ‘No comments’ is cowardly and not sporting at all.

  2. leftathome says:

    Here here, Singaporesportsfan.

    One wonders if SNOC’s Ng Ser Miang and the judging panel think by depriving deserving coaches and athletes of due recognition those sportspeople will perhaps re-double their efforts to reach the ‘bar’ that keeps raising well above the heads of Singapore’s sports fraternity. An irony indeed, when some of the nominees were the ones who indeed raised the bar for SNOC and all of Singapore in the first place…

  3. […] Sports Awards 2009 – The Singapore Sports Fan: Snub of Churchill and Foo shows that the Sports Awards are a farce [Thanks SFF] – Singapore Recalcitrant: The disservice to coach Liu Guo-dong – Today In Singapore: […]

  4. val says:

    In 1972 Valery Borzov won 100m olympic gold. 2 american sprinters were late for their races. Borzov was still declared Olympic Champion.
    So what is wrong of giving the Awards to one of 4 coaches in the list?

    Cheers and OI to all coaches

  5. Vera says:

    behind every successful player is a GREAT coach.
    y the STTA didnt pick Liu is- NUTS!
    but why Churchill wasnt pick as second it MADDER!
    Tao Li success pts directly to him. it takes hard work to mold and direct a olympics finalists? why isnt that appreciated? so i guess if Tao Li got bronze or something OR if Liu didnt leave the national tt team than we were bound to hv a coach of the yr? funny:(

  6. ice says:

    It is ridiculous that in light of the STTA saga, the coach award was not handed. Even if Liu Guo Dong was the most deserving, could they really not find a second winner? Are you trying to tell me Peter Churchill would not have been a deserving winner? Cmon. The guy coached Tao Li from a mere regional SEA Games gold medallist to an Olympic finalist, Asian record holder and World Cup record holder. Surely that is an achievement good enough for Coach of the Year? Moreover, his coaching was done without the extensive funding that the STTA received. Remember, Tao Li was not in the Project 0812. What she and Churchill achieved was through pure hard work and no handouts. How is Churchill not a worthy winner? While everyone considers the omission to be a snub to Liu, has anyone considered that it is also a snub to Churchill, who frankly speaking, would have won it any other year?

    • leftathome says:

      I’m sure Coach Churchill is wondering just what he has to do to satisfy SNOC. After being given next to nothing, and exceeding all expectations, this is the thanks he gets. In addition to that, with SSC making their POSB Everyday Champions awards a voting popularity contest this year, it means there is was no national award to recognise Elite coaching in Singapore for the ‘best year ever’ in Singapore’s sporting history. It’s a crying shame. Churchill has personally has given up more for Singapore to achieve success in swimming than most people would ever know about; his family moved back to Australia to allow he and Tao Li full concentration on the Beijing Olympics, and he recently became a PR to show his full support for the future sporting success of the nation. If this is how he is treated, then why would he stay to help Singapore win a swimming medal in London 2012?

  7. […] by STTA not to nominate Liu for Coach of the Year Award [Thanks SFF] – The Singapore Sports Fan: Snub of Churchill and Foo shows that the Sports Awards are a farce [Thanks SFF] – Singapore Recalcitrant: The disservice to coach Liu Guo-dong – Today In Singapore: […]

  8. Vanilla says:


    I’m not into sports and “Sports” is the only unread sections in the papers for me. Your blog provides me useful stuff to fill my ignorance. I picked up table tennis in the last few years, so this article means something to me. Occasionally, I cover sports articles in my blog too, but from a non-sportsman’s perspective.

  9. Ah Hui says:

    Without publishing their criteria for selecting sportsmen, sportswomen and coaches etc. of the year, it is anyone’s guess why no awards were handed out this year. Remy may not be the best candidate of the four, IMO. You need to look at what the rest have done in 2008 to know the full picture. Plus, I am always skeptical having golf and bowling labelled as “sports”. To me, they are more like “games”.

  10. ice says:

    Would you please forward this to the media, say the Straits Times. I think this blog entry (and the replies) have been really thought provoking, and will allow for some reflection for the sports authorities

    • singaporesportsfan says:

      Dear Ice

      Do feel free to forward it to the media if you want to.

      On my part, I would just like to thank everyone for their thought-provoking and intelligent comments.

      That’s the kind of spirited discussion I am striving to generate in this blog, which I hope, in turn, will help to create a new growing awareness of Singapore sports.

      Do keep the comments coming.


  11. Ah Hui says:

    Turning away from the ongoing STTA saga, I think Singapore needs to really diversify and critically diverge in its drawing of the future roadmap of local sport development. I know I sound very different from the mainstream. I am speaking from my own perspectives.

    There is ground for concern when bowling, shooting, golf and snooker are portrayed as key sport events in our quest for future golds. These are recreational activities at best; to me, a sport must at least get your heart-beat up for at least a few minutes to count. Swimming is a sport, table tennis is also a sport.

    I would become quite worried if more and more youngsters are flocking to the bowling alleys – and shunning the sun, sand and sea – just so that they can become medal hopefuls one day. I fully respect what our golfers and bowlers have achieved, of course; but when it comes to classifying their craft, I think there is a more suitable genre that the term ‘sport’. Such games cannot teach youngsters the grit and determination that come with pushing personal limits while fighting the natural elements at the same time.

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