Cheah Kim Teck decides not to run for SAA presidency. That’s good news for Singapore athletics

The report:

This report appeared in The Straits Times and Channel News Asia a couple of hours ago.

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Cheah won’t run for SAA

(The Straits Times, 02 March 2010)

By Leonard Lim

CHEAH Kim Teck, who had expressed interest in running for the Singapore Athletic Association presidency two months ago, will now not throw his hat into the ring.

The chief executive officer of Jardine Cycle & Carriage’s group motor operations told a press conference on Tuesday that with Tang Weng Fei formally signalling his intent to challenge incumbent Loh Lin Kok last week, it made ‘no sense’ for him to come in as well.

Cheah, a former top 400m runner in the 1970s, said: ‘At the end of the day we’ve got people coming out now. Weng Fei has got a team, I think he and all the members…they have publicly declared their interest. They are working very hard to show their experience and ground knowledge.’

Cheah also called for a ‘concilatory approach’ from all parties as the election, which must be called by June, looms.

He said: ‘Sports is not meant to be a battlefield, it’s supposed to prepare warriors to fight battles to win medals, not fight among yourselves.’

In recent months, the SAA has come under fire from senior sports officials for track and field’s poor performance at regional competitions. Sharp exchanges have ensued between Loh, who has held the post since 1982 except for a two-year break, and the Singapore Sports Council. 

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 Ex-national sprinter Cheah Kim Teck pulls out of race for SAA presidency

(Channel News Asia, 2 March 2010)

 By Imelda Saad / Low Lin Fhoong

SINGAPORE: It was set to be a three-cornered fight for the post of president at the embattled Singapore Athletic Association.

The candidates were former President Tang Weng Fei, long-term incumbent and lawyer Loh Lin Kok and former national sprinter Cheah Kim Teck.

Mr Cheah had earlier indicated his intentions to run for Presidency.

But in an about-turn, the 57-year-old decided to step aside – noting that there are capable contenders for the post in the form of Mr Tang and Mr Loh.

“I like to step aside, pave the way for this to have a smooth transition,” said Mr Cheah. “I think that’s what athletics needs. Not more battlefield, more bashing.

“What it needs is for some new people to come in and take the sports forward and there are a lot of capable people to do that and there’s no need to stage another challenge.”

The Singapore Athletic Association management team had come under fire for the lack of success in track and field.

The sport came back with only two gold medals in the last SEA Games in Laos from discus thrower James Wong and shot put star Zhang Guirong.

The association is also embroiled in a dispute with the Singapore Sports Council over funding and audit issues.

Now that he has stepped aside, Mr Cheah is urging all parties to adopt a conciliatory approach to the various problems plaguing the athletics scene.

The election for the presidency will take place in June.

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My thoughts:

In the end, this is the best outcome that could have happened. It will now – pending any other unexpected declarations of running for the SAA presidency – ensure that the fight will be a straight clash between Loh Lin Kok and Tang Weng Fei.

It’s the best thing because Tang has assembled quite a formidable team, one packed with Singapore athletics stalwarts across a wide range of ages, and it would be interesting to see how this combination fares against Loh and his men.

If Tang’s team falters, then it does so fairly, and on its own accord.

And let’s face it: would Cheah Kim Teck and his team have stood a chance with the 21 affiliates in the first place? According to a Sunday Times report, his team was filled with unknowns, mostly parents of current or former school athletes, with little prior involvement in track and field. Would the affiliates have trusted that team?

Tang’s team, on the other hand, provides several familiar faces, who probably have extensive contracts within the athletics fraternity, which, in turn,  could be reassuring to the affiliates. 

Frankly, I was never taken in by Loh’s declaration recently that he would gladly step aside for Cheah if he found that he was the right man for the job, with the passion and the right ideas. That struck me as a smokescreen.

“If he can assemble the right team with good experience and ideas to take the sport forward, I can give way,” said Loh to The Straits Times (‘Loh may not run’, The Straits Times, 2 March 2010)

Let’s get real here.

I suspect that Cheah’s friendship with Loh, and the latter’s apparent concilliatory approach to the elections, would have told Loh that he stands a better chance of remaining as an adviser to the SAA if he steps aside for Cheah.

And well, we saw what happened in the end when Tan took charge of the SAA from2004-2006 and had Loh as the special advisor, right?

Loh never relinquished his hold on the SAA, and in the end, a frustrated Tang, using the convenient excuse of work commitments, stepped down because he couldn’t stand being a puppet in the management.

Also, I found Loh’s comments highly ironical. If he is willing to stand aside for someone who has ‘ideas to take the sport forward’, then shouldn’t he be stepping down in the first place because of what his ideas have done for Singapore athletics.

Let me just highlight a fact that has been repeated ad nasueam in The Straits Times in almost every single report on athletics:

Following athletics’ poor showing at the South-East Asia Games in Laos last December, senior sports officials called for a change in leadership at the SAA. The team returned with just two gld medals and one silver out of 45 events. Singapore was once a regional powerhouse in the sport in the 1970s.”

I think the paragraph speaks volumes of what Loh’s team has achieved since he first came on board in 1982.

So, let it be a straight fight, I say. In the end, let Singapore athletics, through the 21 affiliates,  get the team it deserves, either through a genuine desire for change, or a genuine desire to let the status quo remain and the perks that remain with supporting that status quo.

Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan  

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One thought on “Cheah Kim Teck decides not to run for SAA presidency. That’s good news for Singapore athletics

  1. Two cents worth says:

    Hi! SSF,

    Totally agree with your views. In one of the reports, Loh commented that he hopes that Tang is not ‘dressing his old ideas with new clothes’. To me, and I think many of us would agree, even if Tang really does dress his old ideas with new clothes they are still better than Loh’s lousy ideas all this while. Tang’s ideas, be they new or old, were never given a chance to be put to a test. However, Loh’s ideas implemented since 1982 till now have our current state of athletics to prove that he has failed utterly. Loh should look at it from another perspective and understand that it does not matter if the next management is good, the point is the current management is so bad that the athletics fraternity deserves a chance to work with someone else. Then, there might be hope. The current state is so bad, or shall we say the worst that it can get, can anyone be worse than worst? No! Hence, anyone with any fresh ideas will just better. If this is not the case, then track and field is pathetic.

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