A letter-writer defends the Singapore Athletic Association, and mocks its detractors

The report and the letter:

As we all know by now, the Singapore Athletic Association (SAA) has been hit by a petition signed by more than 100 members of the local athletics fraternity – athletes, coaches and parents – proclaiming their loss in confidence in the management of the national body and asking the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS) to step in to manage the NSA.

Alas, most of the signatories opted to be anonymous for fear of reprisals from the SAA should they reveal their identities, which more or less takes away quite a bite of the bite of the petition, I feel. 

Here’s one of the reports which was published in TODAY on 4 Sept:


Turmoil at the Athletic Association

(TODAY, 4 Sept 2009)

 By Low Lin Fhoong

THE management of one of Singapore’s most storied national sports association (NSA) has come under fire from members of its own fraternity.

Today has learnt that a petition – expressing a loss of confidence in the current Singapore Athletic Association (SAA) management, which is led by president Loh Lin Kok – has garnered over 100 signatures from athletes, coaches and parents.

The confidential petition – a copy of which was obtained by Today – has been submitted to Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS); Mr Teo Ser Luck, MCYS Senior Parliamentary Secretary; and Mr Oon Jin Teik, chief executive officer of the Singapore Sports Council (SSC). It called on the “MYCS to step in to manage SAA”.

Some of the misgivings revolved around preparations for the South-east Asian (SEA) Games in Laos in December.

In April, the SAA had instructed all its athletes that the final qualifying meet for the SEA Games would be the Singapore Open, scheduled on Aug 1-2. The association called it off a month prior to the meet, citing a lack of interest from overseas competitors.

Other reasons listed in the 24-page petition included the lack of planning for overseas competitions, lack of coaching and technical expertise, and unclear selection policies for major competitions.

When contacted by Today, Mr Loh, 62, poured scorn on the petition. “These are not serious people, and we cannot take the things they do seriously,” said Mr Loh, who led the association from 1982-2004, and then again from 2006 onwards.

“This is a case of one faction trying to create problems … They’re acting very irresponsibly, and to achieve their means, they’ve spread controversial things and put the association in a bad light. The association is a legitimate elected body, and of international repute,” he added.

The SSC was unable to reply to Today’s queries by press time.

Former SAA president Mr Tang Weng Fei, who headed the SAA from 2004-2006, has joined the group calling for change.  Mr Tang, who signed the petition, said: “Loh Lin Kok is a passionate man and I think he’s done a fair job with the Singapore Marathon and Allcomers Meet … but the area SAA’s not done well in is excellence.

“Maybe it’s his style (that people are unhappy with). It may have worked 30 years ago, but athletes are different now, and the kids are different. We need someone who thinks outside the box, and has passion for the athletes.”

Said one coach, who spoke on the condition of anonymity: “Things have not changed much since the 1980s, and there’s nothing exciting about track and field now … we need a new leader who is of a high calibre to lead the sport to greater heights.”

One national sprinter endorsed the petition after his experience in going abroad for a competition. “We were informed of travel arrangements only one to two days before flying off, and not given allowances for meals while overseas,” he claimed. “Things are very disorganised.”

In their petition, many of the signatories said they had done so “on the condition of anonymity from the SAA”. “This is in fear of possible SAA reprisals against them”, the signatories said. 

The SAA has had its fair share of controversies in the past year. Last December, they failed to submit budget plans to the SSC on time, which resulted in the witholding of government funding for the association. Ms Christina Tay, then the chief executive officer, resigned over the matter.

In February, the SAA axed 4x100m women’s relay coach Mr Loh Chan Pew, claiming he didn’t meet the NSA’s minimum coaching qualification standard. As a result, Ms Amanda Choo and Ms Ann Siao Mei, who were part of the unit Mr Loh had coached to a new national record in 2007, quit the team.


The letter:

Yesterday, the SAA found its first supporter. Pavan Jeev Singh wrote to The Straits Times which published the letter in its online forum section.

In his letter, he pointed the finger at local athletes instead, blaming them instead for Singapore’s lack of success in athletics in the past two decades. Athletes, he said, are not hungry for success, want everything handed to them on a golden platter, do not train hard enough, and when they fail, blame the association for their failures. Coaches, on the other hand, are never keen to upgrade themselves.

He also defended the SAA, saying that the national body has over the years, created numerous opportunities for the athletes to excel but the athletes have failed to seize these chances.

Finally, the writer aso mocked the signatories for choosing to stay anonymous (this was bound to come back and haunt them). How can they claim to be genuine if they can’t stand up and be counted?


Well, here’s the letter in all its glory. Given the depth of his knowledge, I wonder if the writer was a member of the SAA’s managenent committee in the  late 90s.

Now I await to see which member of the local athletics fraternity will write back to whack the SAA and dish out more dirt on the NSA.


Problem not with SAA but with athletes who lack drive

(The Straits Times, Online Forum, 9 Sept 2009)

I HAVE been following the controversy surrounding the Singapore Athletic Association (“Athletics body should take stock – and care for the fraternity”, yesterday; “Athletes petition ministry”, Sept 4).

I am told that all this started with an SMS urging for a motion of no-confidence in SAA president Loh Lin Kok.

This puzzles me. The SAA is governed by a Constitution which is supreme. The management committee is elected at an annual general meeting. Things cannot be based on the whims and fancies of petitioners. How can they wake up one morning and decide what is right and what is wrong?

If these petitioners are genuine, they should stand up and be counted and not hide behind the cloak of anonymity.

Mr Loh has been at the helm of the SAA for almost three decades. He is not only passionate but has also done lots for the association.

Mr Loh and veteran track and field official Maurice Nicholas have been raising money for the SAA since he became president of SAA in 1982.

To help develop athletes here, Mr Loh brought in the Asian Track and Field Championships in 1987 and the Asian Junior Track and Field Championships in 1988 and once again in 1999.

The SAA has sent athletes for numerous training stints overseas, including in the United States, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, Germany and Japan.

Money was raised and spent on these athletes; they failed and subsequently blamed the SAA. They went on a holiday trip rather than a serious training trip.

Take football, for example. Then-Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong said in a speech in 1998 that if France could win the World Cup using foreign-born players, Singapore should also aim to qualify using foreign talent in the 2010 World Cup.

We did not qualify. So do we sack the management committee of the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) for this failure? Soccer has yet to win a South-east Asian Games gold medal.

Like the FAS, Mr Loh has created opportunities for athletes to excel but they have failed.

The problem lies with athletes in Singapore, not the SAA management. Athletes here are not hungry for success, but they want everything on a golden platter. They are not focused and they do not give their best in training, and subsequently do not perform and end up blaming the association.

Coaches have been offered courses to upgrade their skills, but these coaches challenge the integrity of the management committee.

Mr Loh has a good team but I must say there is some excess baggage in his committee. He should look into the non-performing members.

I doubt if a new team can do better than Mr Loh’s. It will either be the same or worse.

We can put in as much of money as we can, but if athletes are not hungry for success, you will not see the results.

Pavan Jeev Singh


Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan

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2 thoughts on “A letter-writer defends the Singapore Athletic Association, and mocks its detractors

  1. Andy Lim says:

    Mr. Loh just doesn’t get the message, he has been there too long. Just leave and let others take over, his past record is next to nothing and there’s nothing he can do any way. Give the younger one a chance maybe they can come out with something new and fresh. For the sake of everybody and all athletics do a good deed this Christmas . Just Leave.

  2. kotivj says:

    Dear Towkay,

    This is my title to you – this is with respect and not a sneer.

    At first you were entered in my ‘black book’ as a villain, this impression was formed – from what i read in the papers and the media – the resignation of the CEO – the lady – being a man i naturally would side a female human being.

    Later on as the saga of SAA was reported – at least as transparent as permitted under the rules – have i changed my opinion of your intentions and understand ‘where you come from’. I am sorry for this ‘FIR’ opinion.

    2009 was the saga of AWARE and 2010 will be the SAAA saga – when people will understand the going on in day to day activities of sports in Singapore.

    Your battle is an eye opener to the other NSA whose ‘balls’ are squeezed by the SSC as they depend on them for all their needs. This power has been misused and taken to a point where the SSC has created a set of preferred NSA who get treatment that is detrimental to other sports.

    At first i had this strong feeling that other than the Charmain of the NSA – you may have ‘extra ordinary powers’ bestowed from the field of politics and also ‘grass root association/organisation’ – the later whose ethos is that society comes first and the individual is a piece of dung – influenced by Confucius and CCP thinking.

    The question in my mind were:
    How can a man be the Charmian of an NSA for so long?
    How can a Charmian compromise the association with the ‘GOD” the God for sports – SSC?
    How come the media did not run a campaign on you?

    I may be wrong if so please excuse me – they say ‘to err is human to forgive is divine’.

    I understand what you are being dished out by the SSC – mine is on the same lines but being an individual it has gone to a point where the SSC is working with their Legal department to get a restraint order so that i am not allowed to enter the office – great is it not.

    My association with the SSC has been for about 6 years – trying to live my dream and passion to set up an indoor facility for a sport. The sport being at the bottom of their wish list – never mentioned in their yearly prospective from independence day. A non- Chinese game as mentioned in reports from the inception of SSC.

    My battle will go on irrespective of all odds – slow and steady wins the race – i have time but do SSC?

    Your actions are appreciated by me – i can only support your efforts – if need be by action, but that is left to your discretion and game plan. Your standing should be an eyeopener to other NSA’s – fight for your rights – don’t take anything dished out – have balls like Margret Thatcher.

    The SSC will bend its a ‘David and Goliath” situation for them. They say an ant can create havoc for an elephant – it depends on the ants thinking – How? When / Where / Why?

    I would be delighted if we can have a ‘kopi’ together may be a bit of toast and kaya? The invitation, time and place is your choice. We will go dutch.

    Parting is such sweet sorrow but this lyric i have coined – please use RAP

    Two swimmers one called Alex and the other called Oon,
    Run an organisation with ego’s of goons,
    Very soon – very soon,
    They will swim and battle dung in a spoon.

    A Happy New Year to you Sir,


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