Monthly Archives: May 2010

Newsflash: Singapore beats China 3-1 in World Team Table Tennis final

Singapore created sporting history this evening when it stunned China to win the 50th World Team Table Tennis Championships’ women’s title.

The achievement in Moscow is Singapore’s best table tennis result on the world stage to date and also marks the first time the Republic has managed to beat its biggest rival.

Singapore finished second to China at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and at last year’s Asian Championships and World Team Cup.

But this World Team Table Tennis Championships also provided the best opportunity for the Republic to beat China.

This is because the world No. 1 was competing without two of its former No. 1s – Zhang Yining and Wang Nan, who had dominated the last three Olympics and six World Team competitions.

Although the Chinese had replaced Zhang and Wang with current world No. 1 Liu Shiwen, 18, and world No. 4 Ding Ning, 19, the two teenagers lack experience and were making their World Team debuts. As such, there were fears about their ability to deliver the goods under pressure on such a major stage.

Indeed, those fears materialised tonight.

Singapore, which had spent 35 days in centralised training in Taiwan for this tournament,  drew first blood when top player Feng Tianwei defeated Ding 3-2.

(8-11, 3-11, 11-8, 11-9, 11-9). But it was Wang Yuegu’s stunning 3-1 ((11-7, 11-8, 2-11, 12-10) of Liu that made everyone sitting at home in Singapore front of their television sets sit up.

Singapore was leading 2-0 and suddenly an upset was looking like a increasing possibility. But China prevented a 0-3 whitewash when Guo Yan overcame Sun Beibei 3-1 (6-11, 11-6, 11-4, 11-6) to reduce the deficit.

And so the match hung on the clash of the world’s top two players. It did not help matters that Feng had not beaten Liu in four encounters prior to this.

But in the end, Feng clinched the world title for Singapore when she overcame Liu 3-2 (11-7, 14-16, 11-7, 9-11, 11-7) in a nerve-wracking encounter.

The Singapore Sports Fan would like to congratulate the Singapore team on their success and for finally overcoming their inability to beat China.

Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan

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Why it may not be a good thing for Singapore sports if Low Teo Ping does run for the SAA presidency

The report:

This report appeared in Saturday’s edition of The Straits Times:

Low to take plunge? (The Straits Times, 29 May 2010)

Outgoing sailing chief mulling approach to contest SAA elections

By Leonard Lim

OUTGOING sailing chief Low Teo Ping is considering running for the Singapore Athletic Association (SAA) presidency.

The news is the latest twist in the tussle for the leadership of one of Singapore’s largest national sports associations, which is set to hold its highly-anticipated election on June 25.

Low’s entry into the fray brings to four the number of people who could be gunning for the presidency: Incumbent Loh Lin Kok, oil trader Tang Weng Fei, Low and prominent criminal lawyer Subhas Anandan.

Ironically, Low is already an adviser to Tang’s team, which was assembled in February to challenge the incumbent. However, the sailing chief is expected to withdraw from that team if he does decide to contest the SAA presidency.

Low, 65, is a well-known name in the sports fraternity. Apart from being the president of SingaporeSailing, he is also president of the Singapore Rugby Union, a council member of the Singapore Sports Council and a Singapore National Olympic Council vice-president. He is a vice-president of the International Sailing Federation as well.

It is understood that the retired banker, who declined comment, has been approached by some in the fraternity to take over from Loh.

In recent months, the SAA chief, a 62-year-old lawyer, has been under pressure from senior sports officials to step down because of athletics’ patchy track record at international competitions.

It is believed that Loh has confided to subordinates that he is happy to step aside if either Low or Anandan, 62, agree to run for office.

A keen observer of the local sports scene remarked: ‘One of the most important tasks for anyone who takes over from Lin Kok now is to mend fences with the Singapore Sports Council, after all the bad press and criticism of the sport recently.

‘Teo Ping, with his positions in SSC and SNOC, along with how he helped build sailing to where it is today, would be a good fit for that.’

Low had announced last week that he would relinquish the sailing presidency on June 28, when SingaporeSailing holds its own AGM.

Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports Dr Vivian Balakrishnan paid tribute to Low then, saying he had always found him to be ‘a reliable source of wise counsel’.

Loh remained coy when asked about Low, but chose to reply with a sailing analogy: ‘If I do hand the reins over, it must be to someone with a steady pair of hands, and someone I trust.’

As for Cuesports president Anandan, who had indicated a month ago that he was considering the position, he would only say: ‘I haven’t decided, I’m waiting for certain things to be decided first.’

Time is running out for the prospective candidates to make up their minds.

The election must be held by the end of next month and the SAA’s 21 affiliates need to be informed 21 days in advance.

Those who wish to contest any of the 13 posts up for grabs – including three vice-presidents, the honorary secretary and honorary treasurer – must express interest at least seven days before the AGM.

The SAA’s management committee will meet on Monday and is expected to endorse Loh’s proposed date of June 25 for the AGM.

Since last December’s South-east Asia Games in Laos, track and field has been in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.

For instance, just two gold medals were garnered out of a total of 45 on offer in Laos. The SAA has also not received any government funding for over a year, after it was tardy in submitting key budget proposals to the SSC.

Loh has held the presidency since 1981, except for a break between 2004 and 2006, when the 56-year-old Tang took over.

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My thoughts:

Like angkujupi, and I am sure, many others who are taking a keen interest in the coming Singapore Athletic Association elections, I did a double take when I first read the above report about SingaporeSailing president Low Teo Ping being approached to run for office.

But to be honest I am more interested in knowing who were the people who approached him to run than in guessing whether he will eventually agree to do so.

Indeed, who are they? Are they from Loh Lin Kok’s camp? In other words, is he another person that Loh would prefer to take over his seat? Or are these people of some authority in the Singapore sports scene?

After all, they must be pretty powerful and have a certain amount of clout if they can make Low do a rethink about being Tang Weng Fei’s special advisor, and contemplate running for office himself?

And if indeed they are fairly powerful people, then the next question arises: what is so wrong about Tang as a candidate? What is wrong with the team he has assembled? Why do these people not want to see him helming Singapore athletics?

My other concern is that of Low being asked to serve as the head of yet another national sports body.

Don’t get me wrong: I am not casting aspersions on Low.

In fact, I take my hat off to him for the way he has turned Singapore into a world-class sailing nation, and for the way he has brought the Singapore Rugby Union back into the black a few years after it was hit by a $1.2 million embezzlement in 2005.

Almost the stuff of legends.

However, I do feel it speaks volumes of the lack of capable leadership in Singapore sports that a chap who is already the chief of two national sports associations and who also previously served as a key management figure in the Singapore Bowling Federation,  is now being asked to ‘save’ Singapore athletics.

And my fear is that if Low does agree to stand for office, and wins, it could deal a blow to the fledging spirit of grassroots volunteerism in Singapore sport.

I mean, the reason why Tang and his team came together to fight Loh was because they finally had enough of the way the sport is being run, because of their passion and love for the sport, and because of their desire to do something to lift athletics out of its present two-decades long doldrums.

So what if they all have an axe to grind with the current SAA leadership? Does this necessarily mean that they are in the fray for personal gain? Does it mean that they are not the right people to run for office?

So if indeed some powerful forces are asking Low to take part in the elections, and are willing to do whatever they can to parachute him into the fray, and into office at the last minute, then one must ask: what kind of message are they sending to the grassroots?

The other paragraph from the report that interested me was the comment made by ‘a keen observer of the local sports scene’ who has, conveniently, decided to remain anonymous.

He said: “One of the most important tasks for anyone who takes over from Lin Kok would be to mend fences with the Singapore Sports Council,  after all the bad press and criticism of the sport recently.

“Teo Ping, with his positions in the SSC and the SNOC, along with how he helped build sailing to where it is today, would be a good fit for that.”

I really don’t understand what this ‘keen observer” is trying to imply.

Is Tang’s team responsible for all the bad press and criticism that Singapore athletics has been suffering? Have they done anything in the past against the SSC that would require fence-mending?

The only cause of bad press for Tang’s team recently is Melvin Tan’s disagreements with national relays coach Hamkah Afik’s training schedule for the squad earlier this year, which resulted in Tan’s four runners deciding to stay away from relay training for a while (Tan is standing for the post of statistician in the elections).

Why would it be hard for Tang’s team to work with the SSC? They haven’t been in power, so doesn’t that mean they would be starting on a fresh page with the SSC if they are elected?

These are interesting times, and I eagerly wait to see the latest developments in this ongoing saga.

I hope we do eventually get to find out who approached Low to run for office, and I would be interested to find out the people who will make up the rest of his team.

Stay tuned.

Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan

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Wu Chia-Ching’s decision to turn down Singapore citizenship is a blessing for Singapore sport

The report:

A reader, angkujupi, has asked me about my thoughts about Taiwanese pool player Wu Chia-ching’s about-turn in wanting to take up Singapore citizenship. He was referring to this report which appeared in The Straits Times last Saturday:

Deal is off for Taiwan pool ace

(The Straits Times, 15 May 2010)

It looks like world champion will not be taking up Singapore citizenship after all

By Terrence Voon

A YEAR after announcing his decision to become a Singapore citizen with much fanfare, Taiwan’s double world pool champion Wu Chia-ching appears to have changed his mind.

The former pool prodigy failed to turn up for appointments to finalise his citizenship last month, and has demanded better terms for his playing contract as a foreign sports talent.

This, after braving media backlash in Taiwan and repeatedly stating his desire to represent Singapore.

His recent actions have angered Cuesports Singapore, which had welcomed the player here and backed his application for citizenship. They have now decided that enough is enough.

“We do not want prima donnas in our team,” Cuesports Singapore president Subhas Anandan told The Straits Times yesterday. “The deal is off. We’re not interested in him any more.”

Nicknamed “Little Genius”, the 21-year-old Wu became a household name in Taiwan after winning the prestigious World 9-Ball Championship and the World 8-Ball Championship at the age of 15.

Last year, he approached Cuesports on the possibility of representing the Republic. After appearing here as a sparring partner for the Singapore team, he announced that he would take up Singapore citizenship – a move that sparked public outcry in his homeland.

Wu submitted his citizenship application last year and this was approved earlier this year.

The first signs of trouble appeared on April 1, when he did not turn up for a scheduled appointment at the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority headquarters to finalise his citizenship.

A second appointment was made a week later, but he failed to appear again. Wu – who was based in Shenzhen at the time – later informed Cuesports officials that he was ill and could not travel.

According to Mr Anandan, matters came to a boil recently when the player’s representatives began asking for additional perks. These include getting a bigger cut of any potential sponsorship the player would attract.

When contacted, Wu admitted that his move here had stalled. Negotiations had been difficult because he was now contracted to a company which manufactures pool equipment bearing his name.

“There are some contractual problems which need to be sorted out,” he said in a phone call from Taipei.

“As a player, I want to perform on the international stage. But there is nothing I can do. The company has invested in me, and it is up to them to negotiate with Singapore.”

Two weeks ago, Cuesport sent a registered letter to Wu’s address in Taiwan, asking him to clarify his interest in playing for Singapore. He was given a seven-day deadline to respond after receiving the document.

Wu claims he has not received the letter, but time appears to have run out for the former champion.

Said Mr Anandan: “We would rather concentrate on raising the standards of our local-born players. Pool is a game where we can be as good as powerhouses like Taiwan and the Philippines.

“We just have to be disciplined and train hard.” 

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My thoughts:

Frankly, I’m glad that matters came to an abrupt end at this stage.

In the first place, from all previous media reports, it seems like Wu was motivated more by the prospects of monetary gain of becoming a Singaporean ie the chance to compete in the major Games and world competitions and reap the handsome financial rewards that come with podium finishes.

Considering his pedigree – he is the 2005 World 8-ball and World 9-ball champion — he would have stood a very strong chance of fattening his bank account while in Singapore colours. 

Last year, there were also differing reports on how much Wu would be paid to don national colours.

One report said  that Cuesports Singapore would pay Wu NT$50,000 a month, or S$2,100, to play for Singapore.

In another, the Taiwan Pool and Billiards Association claimed that Wu was being offered NT$4.6 million (or S$204,000) to play for Singapore.

I don’t know what the true figure is but judging from the amounts being bandied, I assume it would  have been a pretty attractive salary regardless.

But subsequently, the TPBA hit back to say that Wu would have to return the NT$900,000 he received as a reward for winning the world title if he became a Singaporean.

He would also be ineligible for the 2010 Asian Games (Singapore offers $250,000 for an Asian Games gold) and barred from playing in the lucrative Taiwan domestic league where top players can rake in up to NT$1 million annually. 

So I can see why Wu possibly had second thoughts about taking up Singapore citizenship. He must have done his sums and figured he had more to lose financially in the next two years if he went for the pink IC.

Does this make him a “prima donna”? (which is what angry Cuesports Singapore president Subhas Anandan is now calling him)

I am not sure.

What I am sure about is how much worse we Singaporeans would feel if the 22-year-old Wu becomes a citizen, goes on to win a few major titles in Singapore colours, and then decides after a few years, to give up his citizenship to return to Taiwan.

Can you imagine how that will cheapen the idea of Singapore citizenship if it happens? I can also imagine the sort of despairing hand-wringing and outpouring public indignation it will subsequently spark off.

And honestly, let’s face it: How much sporting pride can we truly derive from an already-accomplished Taiwanese world champion’s future accomplishments in Singapore colours? It’s not as if we played a role in developing his talents.

So as far as I am concerned, this turnaround is  a blessing in disguise for Singapore sport.

We have been spared from all the possible pain and emotional despair that would have arisen if Wu gives up his pink IC a few years down the road.

It has also turned the spotlight once again on the Foreign Talent Scheme (FTS) and shown up its bad points for all to see.

Truly, this has been good news, not bad.

In fact, I think it is cause for celebration, wouldn’t you agree?

Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan

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