Break-up of national women’s 4x100m relay team: Singapore sports is the biggest loser

The report:

This report came out in The Sunday Times, and more or less spoilt the morning for me. I’ve penned my thoughts after this article.

Women’s 4x100m team split up (The Sunday Times, 12 July 2009)

Two years ago, they broke a national record that had stood since 1973.

But today, all that remains of the women’s 4x100m relay quartet of Lee Yan Lin, Ann Siao Mei, Wong Ze Teng and Amanda Choo is a duo. All are 22.

Both Lee and Wong have quit the team, raising the likelihood that Singapore will not have a 4x100m women’s relay team at December’s South-east Asia Games in Laos.

Central to the breaking up of the team – who clocked 46.68 seconds to break the previous record of 47sec – is the removal of their coach Loh Chan Pew by the Singapore Athletics Association late last year.

Said Wong: ‘I got a bit tired of running, and there were many problems, such as SAA making us foot part of the costs of overseas races trips if we didn’t meet the timings.

‘They also changed our coach without even telling us. Because of these, I didn’t want to run anymore.’

Lee, a recent graduate from the National University of Singapore, has also lost interest in athletics and is concentrating on starting a career outside sport.

SAA had deemed that Loh, who has only a Level 2 International Association of Athletics Federations coaching certificate, does not meet their coaching requirement of at least Level 3.

They have since appointed Tang Ngai Kin, who holds the maximum Level 5 certification, and Margaret Oh, who has a Level 3 coaching certificate, as the team’s coaches.

Choo, who broke the 18-year-old national 100m record in 2007 under Loh, said that the rapport the team had with him is gone.

She said: ‘We were training together for five years under Mr Loh, and suddenly they want us to change coach. It just isn’t the right environment to excel in.’

But Tang insists there is still a future for the team.

He said: ‘We invited Amanda and Siao Mei to come down for training, but if they want to boycott me, there’s nothing we can do.

‘Life still goes on. The relay team will go on. It’s not about committing to me or anyone, it’s whether you want to do it for the nation.’

Tang revealed that there are plans to form a junior team. It includes national junior record-holder Balpreet Kaur, 19, Asmah Hanim, 25, Melanie Francisca, 22, Fiona Ng, 17, Dipna Lim, 18, and Liang Wei, 16.


My thoughts:

I was saddened to read this report about the break-up of the national women’s 4x100m relay team, and to be honest, I feel that, as much as the Singapore Athletics’ Association was in the wrong for triggering off this whole state of afairs by sacking Loh Chan Pew, that Coach Loh could have also prevented this break-up from happening. 

Sure, the SAA showed a lack of foresight, transparency and sensitivity in the way they hastily removed Coach Loh as the relay squad’s national coach late last year.

Till today, it is hard to understand why the NSA opted to get rid of a man who has been a father figure and an inspiration to the girls in the relay team, and who has developed them into a national-record breaking quartet.

But it is also hard to understand why Coach Loh could not, for the sake of Singapore athletics, and in the name of talent realisation, encourage his charges to attend the once-a-week national relay training sessions at Bukit Gombak.

As Tang Ngai Kin, who was appointed the relays coach after Loh’s removal, once said: 

“I am not asking them to leave coach Loh and train under me. They can continue to train with Loh. All we are asking is that they come down once a week for relay training. And it’s only for an hour, an hour and a half at the most.”

It is hard not to see the logic of Tang’s argument.

What’s wrong with training at Gombak once a week when there are no other restrictions on who you can train under during the rest of the week?

Why couldn’t Loh see that? Despite being obviously hurt by the sacking, why couldn’t he rise above it all and encourage/persuade his demoralised relay girls to continue running for Singapore and for their own personal pride?  

For isn’t that what being a coach is all about – wanting to see your trainees soaring as high as they can and realising their potential? 

And now what is the result of all this? The loss of a very promising relay squad that could have achieved something at this year’s SEA Games.

This farcical outcome is almost akin to the proverbial act of cutting your nose to spite your face.

Nobody is a winner here, and in the end, there is only going to be one outcome from this: life will go on and the loss of the relay team will slowly become a distant memory, chalked up as yet another one of Singapore athletics’ famous shoot-yourself-in-the -foot cock-ups.

As Tang said: “Life still goes on. The relay team will go on. It’s not about committing to me or anyone. It’s whether you want to do it for the nation.”

In this case, I feel that all parties have let Singapore athletics down, and we, as a sporting nation, are the poorer for it.

What a bloody shame, and what a bloody waste.

Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan

Related links:

9 February 2009: A piece of advice to the national women’s 4x100m relay squad

27 February 2009: Loh Chan Pew receives POSB Everyday Champions Award while the SAA receives egg on its face

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4 thoughts on “Break-up of national women’s 4x100m relay team: Singapore sports is the biggest loser

  1. diana says:

    i think u shd think twice abt totally believeing in what is written in the papers.
    The athletes in mention in fact feel like that they are being slandered by tang’s words. i also do not believe that mr loh would do such a thg as ask them not to train w tang. do u know mr loh personally?i do.
    so pls put urselves in others’ shoes and and sure hope that you will not believe everythg that the ST writes.

  2. amanda choo says:

    hi, because i have had enough of being slandered without everything being reported, i am compelled to reply.

    firstly, what was not reported on why I chose not to go for training is because prior to the trainings, i had attended a meeting with mr tang (as published in the papers) where balpreet and my mum were present. during that time, it was agreed that there would be a meet up between all selected athletes, personal coaches and parents to explain the situation, set out a detailed training plan and discuss any outstanding issues. up until the most recent article, there has been none. and it was agreed with mr tang then, that this was to be done before we started training.

    secondly, i take issue with mr tang’s statement “It’s not about committing to me or anyone. It’s whether you want to do it for the nation.” Because frankly, the much easier way out would be to walk out instead of having to be put down while we still train to run for the nation (even individual events are ran under team singapore) and find our own meets to represent singapore.

    lastly, i dont see how anyone can make such a statement when there is no ‘lead by example’ in the form of allowing for change and hopefully advancement instead of holding on to a position that has proven one to be rather ineffective. afterall, you are leading a NATIONAL sports association. cos really, if i were to do this for myself, i’d never want to be led by such a leader.

  3. […] Singapore Boleh, Local Talent Boleh! Break-up of national women’s 4×100m relay team: Singapore sports is the biggest lose… […]

  4. John says:

    Hey mr Singapore Sports Fan. That was very badly written opinion. I have lost all respect for you. You obviously do not know the grounds, just like those big shots in SSC and all the NSAs. Dun bring all this bull shit about long term or representing the nation. The NSA and SSC dun give a shit. they just want the money. They just want to say, sports in singapore is growing. But at the end of the day, its all about just painting a nice picture to the outside world, the public, but inside is a rotten core. the administration sucks. dun blame the athletes. dun blame the coach you bitch. You are sick in the mind. do u even know mr loh?? u really piss me off. Suggest you write an apology bitch.

    Please, shut down your blog. you just piss the shit out of me man. i dun care if you some sports editor last time. screw off.

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