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.
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