This report appeared in today’s edition of The Straits Times:
Possible SAA rivals still working together
(The Strais Times, 4 June 2010)
DESPITE being thrust into the roles of possible adversaries for the Singapore Athletic Association (SAA) presidency, Tang Weng Fei and Low Teo Ping both insist that cooperation between them remains paramount.
This, after a three-hour meeting yesterday between the pair which Low described as ‘amicable’, while Tang maintained that they were ‘still working closely together as a team’.
Both men are the only candidates that remain linked with athletics’ top post, following news that incumbent Loh Lin Kok (who has held the post for much of the last three decades) and Cuesports Singapore president Subhas Anandan have dropped out of the running.
Oil trader Tang, 56, the SAA chief from 2004 to 2006, had announced his candidacy in February. In the 22-page booklet handed out to the media to introduce his team, Low, 65, was listed as his adviser.
‘He is still my adviser,’ declared Tang, who returned from China yesterday. ‘He is an authority on sports management and I feel it is important to tap his experience.’
He refused to elaborate on the nature of their conversation, however, choosing his words carefully.
‘We were discussing how to take athletics forward. There are a lot of major events this year and we have to start planning and focusing our resources now.’
Meanwhile, Low, the outgoing SingaporeSailing president who is also president of the Singapore Rugby Union, declined to comment on his next move.
Said the retired banker, who is also a vice-president of the Singapore National Olympic Council and the International Sailing Federation: ‘Any talk right now would be premature.’
Time, however, is running out with the SAA’s annual general meeting scheduled for June 25. 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.
I’ve been wondering – what would make Low Teo Ping, originally brought in as an advisor to the team that Tang Weng Fei is fielding for the June 25 SAA elections, suddenly entertain, and be highly receptive to, the idea of running for the presidency himself.
Why would a man who is already so highly involved with the Singapore Sports Council and the Singapore National Olympic Council and who is also the current president of the Singapore Rugby Union, want to take on yet another hat (and arguably the hardest hat to wear in Singapore sport): the presidency of Singapore athletics?
And then it struck me:
Given all the success he has tasted in Singapore sailing, and given the type of go-getting character that he is, it surelystands to reason that Low is thirsting for more opportunities for sports leadership, to see what else he can do and which sport he can make a success of after stepping down from the presidency of Singapore Sailing
And so I reckon that when someone planted the idea of running for the Singapore Athletic Association presidency, that go-getting part of him must have thought “Hey, why not?”
After all, let’s be frank: there’s seriously glory to be obtained in being someone else’s special advisor, not when you are one who is so used to rolling your sleeves up and getting stuck in the dirt yourself.
And a job like the SAA presidency must seem like a truly exciting challenge to Low, given the state that it is currently languishing in.
But this in turn begs the question: what about rugby? He is after all the president of the SRU.
Why not get stuck into rugby and devote all your attention to a sport that you are currently helming?
Well, let’s face it – what future is there really in Singapore rugby?
Truly, how far can Singapore rugby truly go? Not that far – and that’s only in Asia.
Its brief stint in the Asian Five Nations last year saw them being thumped by all the other teams and relegated back to Division One. This year, the team fell to Sri Lanka in the Division One final and missed out on promotion.
The bottom line: Singapore rugby’s scope for development is limited. It cannot compete beyond a certain level, unless it is infused with a steady stream of foreign talent (for their skills as well as their size), and honestly, where is the fun in that?
On the other hand, Singapore athletics is so rock bottom now that the only way left to go is up. In other words, it is replete with so many ample opportunities for Loh’s successor to turn the sport around.
And it’s clear that the Singapore sporting authorities are waiting to bless the new successor with the funds and all other forms of support needed to help turn the Republic’s athletes into South-east Asian champions at the very least (and probably even more funds and support if the winning candidate is one that it prefers).
I suspect that Low did his math and figured that the opportunity to helm the turnaround of Singapore athletics is a once-in-a-lifetime moment that has to be seized right here and now.
The only obstacle left in his path is finding a team to lead to the elections. And that is probably why Singapore athletics is now in this weird situation.
But hey, better this weird situation than the current status quo, no?
Yours in sport
Singapore Sports Fan