Monthly Archives: October 2009

Singapore wins bronzes at World Wushu C’ships and Commonwealth Weightlifting C’ships (Betcha you missed it in the papers)

The report:

These two items appeared in the Sportsworld section of The Straits Times’ sports pages today (27 Oct, 2009):

S’porean slices his way to bronze

TORONTO: Seet Wee Key snagged a bronze medal at the World Wushu Championships on Sunday – Singapore’s first medal at the event since 2005. The 29-year-old teacher from Boon Lay GardenPrimary School came in third out of 29 competitors in the men’s taijijian event at the Ricoh Coliseum. He finished with a score of 9.77, while China’s Huang Yingqi (9.83) won the gold.

Lifter Chua third in C’wealth event

PENANG: Singaporean weightlifter Lewis Chua, 18, claimed the bronze medal at the Commonwealth Weightlifting Championships last Friday. He lifted a combined total of  220kg in the Junior Men’s 105+kg category.

My thoughts:

Heartiest congratulations to Seet Wee Key and Lewis Chua for flying Singapore’s flag high on the international arena in their respective sports.

Unfortunately, the first thing I felt this morning when I read the bits of information about their achievements in The Straits Times was not joy or a sense of pride. Rather, I felt  frustrated.

I mean, here we have two Singapore athletes finishing in the top three of two international events, and all they merited from the national paper were a total of 11 lines of text?

And instead of some decent coverage of their achievements, we were treated instead to TWO PAGES of news about the English Premier League.

Oh, for goodness sake!

Some people might say: “But wushu and weightlifting are minor sports in Singapore. Readers in general wouldn’t care about how we do in these two sports. They care more about the EPL.”

My reply is simple: even if wushu and weightlifting are minor sports in the Singapore sports scene, is that a compelling reason to play down these achievements?

Wee Key’s feat was achieved in a world tournament that featured over 1,500 wushu exponents from 85 countries. Lewis’ bronze was won in a Championships that featured over 200 weightlifters from 24 nations.

In other words, Wee Key is the THIRD-BEST taijiqian exponent IN THE WORLD today.

Likewise, Lewis is the THIRD-BEST junior weightlifter in his category at COMMONWEALTH LEVEL.

Aren’t these achievements worth celebrating?

And so what if readers care more about the EPL? Does this mean they always turn to the local newspapers for their EPL fix? In this internet era, I very much doubt so.

Likewise, does this mean that local papers must allow the EPL to dominate their editorial space? I don’t see the logic.

And so a wonderful opportunity to generate greater awareness of two minor sports fighting for their place in the sun has gone to waste. What a shame.

The irony was that the short snippet even described Wee Key’s bronze-medal win as “Singapore’s first medal in this event since 2005.”

Incidentally, didn’t it strike anyone that Lewis’ medal was probably Singapore’s first in  a major international  weightlifting event for probably two decades?

Well, as I mentioned earlier, it is the era of the internet.

Which means that if you are resourceful enough, you can usually  find information on how Singapore athletes fare whenever they compete overseas.

For those of you who are interested in a more detailed report on Lewis’ achievement as well as how his other four national teammates fared at the Commonwealth Championships, please click on this link (it’s the Singapore Weightlifting Federation’s website).

And for those of you who want to keep track of the Republic’s performances at the World Championships, which ends on 29 October, please click here.

And if you want to congratulate Wee Key and Lewis on their achievements, you can always pen them here on this site, and I will compile and forward them to their respective NSAs.

Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan

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Why we need more success stories like javelin thrower Teo Hui Juen

The report:

This Straits Times report about javelin thrower Teo Hui Juen unexpectedly qualifying for the SEA Games really made my day.

Truly, it will be a dream come true for me if more such reports on local sports and our local athletes appeared more often in the papers.

On the other hand, I really, really do not need swathes of column inches in newspaper pages devoted to Steven Gerrard’s injury, Alex Ferguson’s rant against referees, the demise of Liverpool or Chelsea, or the latest controversies in the world of Formula One.

Don’t get me wrong: there is a place for all these stories about sport in other countries, but they shouldn’t be dominating all the prime space in the sports pages of our local papers.

Besides, all I need to know about foreign sport, I can always pick up from the internet. Truly, what can the papers offer me that is new apart from columns from overseas-based writers?

But local sports coverage is something I cannot get so readily from the net, and which is something I desire greatly.

And I am sure I am not the only person who feels this way.

However, my friends in the local media tell me they don’t have a choice: they are giving the readers what they want, And according to media research companies, what the bulk of newspaper readers want to read about mainly is the EPL.

The research companies may have the statistics to back their conclusions but I still remain unconvinced.

That is why I started this website, to do my bit to increase the amount of local sports news available out there.

It is also why I take my hat off to Leslie Tan, founder and editor of Red Sports for deciding to do something about the state of local sports coverage.

He rolled up his sleeves and created the website to focus mainly on the local school sports scene. And what a success it has become in just three short years.

Red Sports gets about 500,000 page views a month – that is not only an impressive figure, it is also always growing. And more importantly, it goes to show the chasm between demand and supply, and what a growing demand it has shown itself to be.

So what is that spiel again about local newspaper readers only caring about the EPL?

As you can tell, all this has been building up in me for a long time, hence the long rant.

So back to the point of this post in the first place.

My heartiest congratulations to Hui Juen for achieving her dreams of qualifying for the SEA Games. The fact that she even bettered the qualifying mark means that she even stands a decent chance at winning a medal.

Which is good because it shows that Singapore does have – and can – produce talent in the field events. More significantly, it shows that we really do not have to cajole/entice/attract athletes from other countries to become citizens and represent us in the throws.

Yes, our talents may not be good enough for the Asian stage yet, much less the world stage. but in Hui Juen’s case, AT LEAST IT’S A BLOODY START.

So may she do well in Laos this December, and may her achievements serve to inspire other young inspiring throwers to seriously think about putting aside a few years of their lives to fulfill their potential in their events.

Well done, Hui Juen. Your guts, determination, hard work and perserverance have paid off. I am really looking forward to watching you in action on the telly come December.

Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan

Here’s the report below:

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Going to the SEA Games

(The Straits Times, 20 Oct 2009)

Hui Juen’s hard work earns her a dream trip to Laos

By Leonard Lim

THIS time last year, Teo Hui Juen’s confidence was rock bottom.

None of the javelin thrower’s six attempts at the Institute-Varsity-Polytechnic (IVP) Games recorded a distance. Instead, her spear ended up skidding along the grass each time.

It was a demoralising low for the former Raffles Junior College student, who had won the event at the 2007 Schools National Track and Field Championships.

But rather than moping or surrendering to thoughts about giving up the sport, the strong-willed Hui Juen sought help from former coach and current national record-holder Ng Bock Huat.

‘I knew I could do better than that, it just wasn’t me,’ the 20-year-old Hui Juen recalled yesterday.

Despite some initial reluctance from Ng, the second-year National University of Singapore civil engineering undergraduate eventually persuaded him to take her under his wings again.

That was in November. Last Sunday at Gombak Stadium, that move reaped far bigger dividends than she had expected.

Not only did she win the event at this year’s IVP Games with her 40.23m effort, but she also surpassed the South-east Asia Games qualifying mark of 39.74m to earn a ticket to the Dec 9-18 event in Laos.

Hui Juen could not have achieved her feat at a better time; the Singapore National Olympic Council has a week left to submit all athletes’ nominations to the organisers.

Singapore Athletic Association technical director C. Veeramani said yesterday they were in the process of sending her nomination to the SNOC.

Qualifying for her debut SEA Games caps a seven-year love affair with the javelin for Hui Juen. Actually, it started by accident. As a Secondary 1 student at Raffles Girls’, she had wanted to train as a jumper.

‘But the teacher-in-charge took one look at me, and said my long arms were more suitable for the javelin,’ said Hui Juen, who lives in a condominium in Hougang with her civil servant parents and sister Hui Minn, 15.

Medals at the Schools National Championships followed, and one of her best memories is setting a then-personal best of 37.11m at the 2006 South-east Asia Junior meet in Thailand.

Dreams of donning national colours at the biennial SEA Games followed.

Yet, it could all have been put on hold for another two years if she had not looked for Ng, her coach when she was 16, after last year’s disastrous IVP outing.

‘He told me my strength wasn’t there, and the timing of my javelin release and footwork were not co-ordinated,’ said the 1.67m, 65kg athlete. ‘I hadn’t been training much before last November after finishing my A Levels, so that was probably the reason.’

Plenty of gym work and close attention from Ng during their thrice-weekly sessions followed.

Hui Juen’s determination helped, said the 48-year-old Ng, adding: ‘There were times when she wanted to train even when she wasn’t feeling well and I had to stop her.’

Her distances started to improve, and she achieved a new personal best of 37.41m two months ago.

Then came Sunday’s achievement, which has yet to sink in.

She said: ‘The SEA Games will be my biggest meet. If I can get a new PB, I’d be more than happy.’

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FAS’ five-year plan for the S-League: a case of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted

The report:

This report appeared in The Straits Times on 17 October. It has been edited for length:

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FAS fights back

(The Straits Times, 17 Oct 2009)

It will unveil 5-year strategic plan to counter ‘negative impact’ of the Lions’ exodus

By Wang Meng Meng

THE recent exodus of national players, led by the fiery and controversial Noh Alam Shah, to the Indonesia Super League (ISL) has taken the shine off the S-League.

But Football Association of Singapore president Zainudin Nordin intends to fight back with a five-year strategic plan that will be rolled out in the coming weeks.

The plan is aimed at filling the vacuum, said the 45-year-old Zainudin, who is also the Mayor of Central Singapore District.

Last month, Alam Shah, who moved from Tampines Rovers to ISL club Arema Malang, blasted the S-League for its paltry crowds and lack of atmosphere. In the days that followed, five other national players also headed for Indonesia’s ISL.

They are Baihakki Khaizan and Mustafic Fahrudin (Persija), Precious Emuejeraye and Aleksandar Duric (Sriwijaya) and Ridhuan Muhamad (Arema).

The six national players’ departure is the biggest exodus in a season.

In 1991, five players – Fandi Ahmad, V. Sundramoorthy (both Pahang), K. Kannan (Kuala Lumpur), Malek Awab (Police) and Ahmad Paijan (Terengganu) – played for state teams in the Malaysia Cup.

Mr Zainudin, who took over the FAS presidency from Senior Minister of State for Law and Home Affairs Ho Peng Kee in April, admitted the outflow of talent would have a ‘negative impact’ on the S-League.

But the FAS will revive and improve the 13-year-old S-League, he added.

‘We will be unveiling a five-year strategic plan,’ he said. ‘There will be increased subsidies to clubs to engage local and foreign talent of higher quality.

‘And we will be doing a lot more to ensure that the clubs won’t struggle when it comes to talent spotting.’

Currently, local clubs receive $500,000 annually in seed money from the FAS while the foreign teams (Albirex Niigata and Super Reds) get $150,000.

Mr Zainudin declined to reveal the amount, but said an improved scouting network is already in the works to help clubs unearth gems from the transfer market.

In July, Lions coach Raddy Avramovic, national team manager Eugene Loo and FAS technical director Slobodan Pavkovic were in Shandong to watch China’s national Under-20 tournament.

Besides China, the FAS will be tapping other nurseries in Romania, Croatia, Japan, South Korea, Australia and Britain.

The FAS will then make its recommendations to the S-League clubs.

Mr Zainudin believes the exodus is a sign that the S-League has a good production line.

He said: ‘Their departures have made the S-League less attractive in the short term. But look at Switzerland and Denmark. They are small countries with most of their star players based overseas and yet, their national teams are successful.

‘I hope our Lions can become better players during their ISL stints. They will learn to cope with the pressure of playing before big crowds, spending long periods away from their families and learning how to behave like professionals.

‘At the end of the day, I expect a positive impact. Besides, young players who did not have a chance to play before will now get to shine in the S-League.”…..

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My thoughts:

I hate to say this but I felt worse about the S-League after reading Football Association of Singapore president Zainudin Nordin’s remarks.

Can someone explain this to me please?

Why is the FAS only unveiling a five-year strategic plan NOW, after the exodus of the Lions to the Indonesia Super League?

Zainudin said the aim of the plan is to ‘fill the vaccuum’.

But isn’t this a case of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted?

So does that mean that the FAS and the S-League would have been content to let things stay at the appalling state that they currently languish in if there hadn’t been the departures to Indonesia and if striker Noh Alam Shah hadn’t come out to publicly blast the S-League for its poor crowds and atmosphere.

If that’s the case, then I am sorry.

I used to want to give the S-League a chance but I am now really turned off it.

There was a time when the S-League was really entertaining, and games could really draw crowds of 4,000-5,000 on their own merits.

That was the golden period between 1996 to 2002 when each club had their own distinct identities and had their fair share of good quality foreign players alongside the national players.

Remember how we were entertained by the likes of:

– Vlado Bozinowski, Ernie Tapai, Egmar Goncalves (Home United)

– Dragan Talajic, Boubacar Seck and Nicodeme Boucher (Tiong Bahru/Tanjong Pagar United)

– Surachai Jatturapattarapong, Surachai Jirasirichote, David Cervinski, Niweat Siriwong (Gombak United)

– Mirko Grabovac, Nenad Bacina, Bojan Hodak, Jure Eres, Velimir Crljen, Ivica Raguz, Kiatisuk Senamuang (SAFFC)

– Tawan Sripan, Thawatchai Damrong Ontrakul (Sembawang Rangers)

– Jason Ainsley, Park Tae Won, Itimi Dickson (Jurong FC)

– Stuart Young, Max Nicholson, Simon Clark (Woodlands Wellington)

Heck, even perennial strugglers Balestier Central had some decent players in the form of Darren Stewart, Esad Sedjic, Marko Kraljevic and Goran Paulic.

Those were really heady and entertaining times.

Even going to the homes of smaller clubs like Gombak United (Gombak Stadium), Jurong ( Jurong East Stadium) and Sembawang (Yishun Stadium) on match days felt like stepping into cauldrons of fire. For the clubs truly had their own distinct identities and were all backed by substantial crowds made up of residents from the neighbourhoods.

Compare all that to the S-League today:

a) we have no new exciting foreign faces,

b) all the current foreign players seem to be playing a game of musical chairs as they change clubs every one or two seasons and

c) crowds figures have dropped.

And yet, only now does the FAS come up with a strategic five-year plan?

It’s not only ridiculous, it makes me angry because it sounds like the FAS were simply content to continue taking local football fans for granted for years before the Indonesian exodus made them sit up in shock.

And for that, I say shame on you, FAS.

Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan

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