What Shana’s AYG withdrawal says about Singapore sport

The report:

This report appeared in The Straits Times earlier this week:

Swimmer Shana gives AYG a miss (The Straits Times, 3 June 2009)

 SWIMMER Shana Lim, who was slated to compete in the 50m and 100m backstroke events at the Asian Youth Games, has been replaced by Deborah Chua.

 Shana, 16, is a Hwa Chong International student who will be sitting for her O levels at year-end.

Her parents had cited academic reasons for her withdrawal from the June 29-July 7 Games.

Singapore Swimming Association president Jeffrey Leow said: ‘We respect the decision by Shana and her parents.’

Deborah will compete in the 50m, 100m, and 200m backstroke at the Singapore Sports School pool, where the AYG swimming competition will be staged.

Deborah, 16, is in her first year at Raffles Institution (Junior College).

LEONARD LIM

My thoughts:

This was a really small story which appeared on Wednesday’s edition of The Straits Times. It was tucked away in a corner and dwarfed by a huge report on the flag-presentation ceremony for Singapore’s Asian Youth Games athletes. And as such, I won’t be surprised if many of us missed it.

But to me, it just spoke volumes of the uphill – in fact, practically near impossible – battle to change certain mindsets in Singapore.

The bigwigs of Singapore sport can talk all they want about wanting to turn Singapore into a world-class sporting hub, about creating a sporting culture in Singapore, and using the success of foreign talents to drill a sense of sporting pride in Singaporeans and inspire local athletes to aspire to similar heights.

But at the end of the day,  talented swimmer Shana Lim’s decision to withdraw from the AYG contingent just shows the reality of the situation: in Singapore, sports will always rank a distant second to academic success in our list of priorities in life.

In fact, I am not even sure if it ranks second at all.

Don’t get me wrong: I am not criticising Shana at all.

Rather, I applaud her for making what must have been a painful personal sacrifice. Shana is one of Singapore’s top swimmers and I do hope to see her in action not only at next year’s Youth Olympic Games but also at future SEA and Asian Games.

But her decision just shows that in the end, getting good academic results is the all-important priority in Singapore. 

Because at the end of the day, not everybody can be a top world-class athlete, and not everyone can earn a proper living from being a professional athlete. 

More significantly, not everyone will be willing to take up the route that the Singapore Sports Council has mapped out for its national athletes which can be summed up like this:  you focus on sports first, we will help you to complete your education later and we will also help you to find a job with an employer who is pro-sports.

This is the cold hard reality of Singapore life, and until the Government goes out of its way to do something about this,  and makes a huge song and dance about it, there will be little it can do to stop many young athletes from choosing to concentrate on their studies.

What must be done?

Well, in vague terms, I guess the powers-that-be must create a total and complete support system – a holistic super structure that covers every area and loose end – to show how Singapore’s top youth athletes that they will never lose out to their peers if they decide to pursue sports.

And then they must use this super-structure, to create convincing examples of top athletes who have benefitted handsomely from these support schemes. 

I know: it’s easier said than done, and it’s all too easy to criticise and say that the authorities are not doing enough.

I don’t have the answers.

All I know is that the Singapore Sports School is one small part of the solution. And hopefully the future Sports Institute, which is taking forever to be conceptualised and built, will be another piece in the jigsaw.

But what are the other pieces?

Drop me a comment if you have a idea or a possible solution.

Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan

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10 thoughts on “What Shana’s AYG withdrawal says about Singapore sport

  1. ice says:

    I guess that is one perspective you can look at. But I actually am looking from it through another angle. Yes, I was disappointed at Shana’s withdrawal (because she is definitely one of the best swimmers we are fielding). But am I surprised? Not really. I think the real reason has a lot less to do with academic pursuits. It just happened to be a very good excuse to use.

    I think it simply boils down to the fact that AYG is not, in reality, an important event for the likes of the top athletes competing there. AYG is so hyped up only because Singapore is hosting it. If not, we’d be sending a mediocre squad (see events like the Commonwealth Youth Games for eg). Moreover, AYG for the swimmers is sandwiched in between the National Open (which is qualifications for the SEA Games) and the World Swimming Champs, not to mention the ultimate target: SEA Games in Dec. If it werent for the fact that AYG is held here, I bet the top swimmers like Quah Ting Wen and Lynette Lim will also be missing the event. In fact, I am already surprised that Lynette is flying back from California for this. Ting Wen possibly could not have said no to AYG because she is being marketed as THE athlete for Singapore at AYG. I have a feeling in their minds, Nationals, World Champs and SEA Games are far more important. It is just that Shana is the one who has stepped out to say no to AYG.

    AYG might be important for the age group athletes. But for the elite ones like Ting Wen, Lynette, Shana, AYG is simply not a target for them. And I have a feeling Shana had pulled out long ago than reported. Her name was already missing in the rundown I saw before the newspaper report came out

    • singaporesportsfan says:

      Hi Ice

      Thanks for your insightful thoughts. Yes, I agree that your perspective is another strong possibility.

      Also, between the AYG and the O levels, opting to pull out of the AYG would be the clever move since the time spent training for and competing at the AYG could be better spent ensuring that one does not fall behind one’s peers in school.

      Thanks for continuing to support this blog

      Regards
      SSF

  2. […] for Singapore? – TOC: Low-wage workers better off – really? – The Singapore Sports Fan Says: What Shana’s AYG withdrawal says about Singapore sport – The Singapore Sports Fan Says: Newsflash: Matthew breaks national long jump record, qualifies for […]

  3. Charles says:

    Simple, just like there are athletes in the US who make millions, ensure that this is a path to making millions if you are that good….

    If our ministers make millions, I don’t see why our athletes can’t…

  4. Ng Jia Hao says:

    I direct the following reply to “ice”

    Quote:

    “I think it simply boils down to the fact that AYG is not, in reality, an important event for the likes of the top athletes competing there. AYG is so hyped up only because Singapore is hosting it. If not, we’d be sending a mediocre squad (see events like the Commonwealth Youth Games for eg). ”

    Are you directing an insult to the squad sent to Commonwealth Youth Games by Singapore? Who are you branding as “mediocre”?

    “If it werent for the fact that AYG is held here, I bet the top swimmers like Quah Ting Wen and Lynette Lim will also be missing the event”

    You are telling us that you bet? I mean come on, how come you are so sure?

    ” I have a feeling in their minds, Nationals, World Champs and SEA Games are far more important. It is just that Shana is the one who has stepped out to say no to AYG.”

    1 thing I would like to say, is that maybe you should not indulge in phrases such as “I have a feeling”. We, as athletes, take each and every competition seriously. You do not see us trying to fool around (trying to intentionally make mistakes) in smaller meets such as Inter-Schools, do you? What you expressed, I found offensive.

    Shana’s decision (irregardless of any underlying reasons or not), should not be seen as defying the “system”. I hope you all see that it is indeed a tough decision the athlete have to make.

    TO SSF,

    I do not agree that ice’s views are strong possibility. They are definitely alternative perspective, but surely holds little truth.

    TO Charles,

    we do not need to make millions.
    Just let us make thousands.

    DUDE! wake up!
    It would be a more realistic start.

    • singaporesportsfan says:

      Hi Jia Hao

      Thank you for your comments. I’m really glad that you’ve written in because it gives us a chance to view things from the athlete’s perspective.
      Thanks for this, and for visiting the site.

      And finally, congratulations for breaking the record and for qualifying for the SEA Games

      Regards
      SSF

  5. […] – TOC: Low-wage workers better off – really? [Recommended] – The Singapore Sports Fan Says: What Shana’s AYG withdrawal says about Singapore sport – The Singapore Sports Fan Says: Newsflash: Matthew breaks national long jump record, qualifies for […]

  6. Watchingout says:

    SSF,

    You should go look at the US website for more news of our Singapore swimmers, can be ye opener.

  7. […] “What Shana’s AYG withdrawal says about Singapore sport” – posted on June 5,… […]

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