Monthly Archives: January 2011

Straits Times letter writer criticises SBA’s move to kick out young national shuttlers

The letter:

This letter appeared in today’s edition of The Straits Times. It was a response to the Singapore Badminton Association’s recent decision to disband its National Team 2 set-up and effectively kick out several shuttlers from the national fold, saying they are not good enough to become top international players for Singapore.

21 isn’t too late an age to groom a champion

(The Straits Times, Forum Page, 24 Jan 2011)

MR KELVIN Ho’s sporting dreams ended abruptly after he was told by the Singapore Badminton Association (SBA) to leave because, at 21 years of age, he was too old to make it to world-class excellence (‘Sports dream dashed, it’s back to books’; Jan 12).

Despite his father’s initial objection, Mr Ho had committed himself to train full-time and was part of Singapore’s bronze medal-winning 2009 South-east Asia Games men’s team and 2010 Thomas Cup qualifying squad.

He has shown great passion for the sport and sacrificed his studies to pursue his sporting dreams. Given his drive and sacrifice, is age a very important prerequisite for choosing world-class players?

Why not consider the quality of his technical, tactical and mental skills, and find ways to capitalise on his positive attitude, character and commitment?

As a tennis coach and sports enthusiast, I am totally against using age as a criterion to not select otherwise committed, passionate and talented players to represent Singapore.

The SBA should be more dynamic and wise in its selection of players. A national sports body may have a team of young players, but can it guarantee the firm commitment shown by a player like Mr Ho?

I am certain he will be able to play well till he reaches his mid-30s, as did tennis stars Andre Agassi, who retired at age 36, and Roger Federer, who is now 29 and still playing at top level.

Badminton and tennis may be different sports, but the first principles of athletic excellence are the same: a quality training programme, good attitude, character, willpower, determination and firm commitment.

With these, a player can be a champion at age 21 or beyond.

Billy Lui

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My thoughts:

I thought it was pretty timely too today that the newspapers were filled with Franscesca Schiavone’s magnificent win over Svetlana Kuznetsova in the fourth round of the Australian Open on Sunday after a marathon 4hour and 41minute-long battle.

Why Schiavone? Because the Italian was 29 when she finally won the French Open last year.

At age 30, Schiavone is the oldest woman player on the WTA Tour. With yesterday’s win, she finally reached the quarter-finals of the Australian Open after 11 years of trying. This is her 42nd consecutive Grand Slam tournament.

Can you imagine how different things would have been if she had decided at age 21 that she was not good enough to compete on the tour and threw in the towel?

Worse still, if she had belonged to a national sports association that decided nine years ago that she was not good enough and had to be kicked out?

I said in it in my previous posting and I say it again:

Shame on you, SBA.

Yes, you can be all smug and complacent now and afford to kick out all these young shuttlers because of all the naturalised citizens and foreign imports you have in your national squads.

But remember, it was just 10 years ago when your then-technical director Hamid Khan was lamenting that he was finding it impossible to persuade young local shuttlers to turn professional.

Then again, memories are short, aren’t they? I just hope this comes back to haunt you and the sport of badminton in Singapore one day.

Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan

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Newsbreak: Dipna Lim-Prasad breaks national hurdles record twice in a day

Dipna Lim-Prasad made a stunning return to her pet event – the 100m hurdles – this afternoon after spending a year away from the discipline because of an ankle injury.

The 19-year-old Nanyang Technological student ended up breaking her own national record not once, but twice, at the Singapore Athletics Association’s Track and Field Series 1 meet at the Bukit Gombak Stadium.

She first broke her record of 14.72sec in the morning by clocking 14.69sec in her heat – and then surpassed it with a magnificent 14.56sec effort in the final in the afternoon.

The result comes as a pleasant surprise as Dipna, who is coached by Georgian Viatcheslav Vassiliev,  had spent the whole of last year away from the hurdles on the advice of her doctors. Today’s races were her first in the event since late 2009.

Prior to that, she had set the national record of 14.72sec in September 2009.

To maintain her competitive edge during her stay away from the hurdles, Dipna subsequently turned to the sprints – and found herself making the headlines in November when she clocked the fastest time in the 200m since 1984.

Her time of 24.68sec at the IVP Track and Field Championships is the best time clocked by a woman sprinter since Prema Govindran’s 24.54sec in 1984.

A month later, she lowered that time further when she clocked 24.61sec at the Asean University Games.

So if she continues to work on her sprints, on top of her hurdles, the chances are high that we could well see her name alongside two national records in the near future – the 100m hurdles and the 200m.

The Singapore Sports Fan would like to congratulate Dipna and her coach on their wonderful feats today. Here’s to more record-breaking performances from Dipna this year (including one perhaps in the 200m?)

Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan

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A black day for Singapore sports, thanks to the Singapore Badminton Association

The report:

This report appeared in today’s edition of The Straits Times

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Shuttlers in limbo

(The Straits Times, 11 Jan 2011)

10 players hit as team of second stringers are dissolved amid revamp

By Lin Xinyi & May Chen

SEVERAL members of the national badminton Team 2 squad are set to walk out on the Singapore Badminton Association (SBA), after 10 singles players were told to choose between helping out as sparring partners or leaving.

Some were given the additional option of seeking a career in doubles.

The Straits Times understands that the 16-strong Team 2 squad – consisting of eight men and eight women – were dissolved recently as part of SBA’s restructuring plans.

A National Intermediate Squad (NIS) for players aged 13 to 17 are expected to be formed soon as part of a strategy to develop youth talent.

A handful of Team 2 shuttlers, including Ngo Yi Chye, who finished 27th in the men’s singles at last year’s World Junior Championships, have been promoted to Team 1.

Team 1 boast the Republic’s best shuttlers like Singapore No.1 Ashton Chen.

The remaining 10 shuttlers from Team 2 have been left in limbo.

Although they have been invited to the NIS, those who join can expect to play the role of sparring partners where they will get no allowance nor opportunities to compete in overseas tournaments. The other alternative would be to leave.

Currently, full-time trainees are paid allowances. Team 2 members were also sent to overseas tournaments such as the Yonex-Sunrise Malaysia Open Grand Prix Gold 2010.

The shuttlers affected are Ng Zong Ren, Eugene Sng, Kelvin Ho, Koh Jia Yi, Tan Kia Hwee, Toh Siew Fen, Samantha Neo, Noriko Goh, Aisyah Latib and Li Bo.

Ng, 20, said he has no option but to walk out after SBA officials told him this on Jan 3.

‘I served SBA for 11 years,’ he said. ‘After all our hard work, they asked us to leave just like that. There was no warning. We feel we’ve been unfairly treated.’

Ho is another shuttler who has seen his sporting dreams evaporate overnight.

The member of Singapore’s bronze medal-winning 2009 South-east Asia Games men’s team and 2010 Thomas Cup qualifying squad was told that he was too old to become a world-class shuttler.

The news is a blow to the 21-year-old, who opted against taking his O level examinations in 2007 – despite his father’s disapproval – to train full-time.

A shocked and disappointed Ho added that members of Team 2 were not given ample chances to prove themselves at overseas tournaments.

He said. ‘I’ve no choice but to move on, and hope that going back to studying will give me a better future.’

Others are still mulling over their options. Toh, 18, said: ‘They gave us a week to think it through, but there are some complications and misunderstandings so we need to clarify. They said they’ll still focus on us if we join NIS, but I’m not sure if that will happen.’

The SBA could not be reached for comment by press time.

Earlier in the day, it announced that chief executive Edwin Pang would be leaving the association on Feb 9, after reaching the end of a three-year secondment. Michael Foo, a member of the SBA management committee, will be the acting CEO. The SBA said it will begin the search for a new CEO shortly.

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My thoughts:

Thanks to the Singapore Badminton Association, parents of children who are talented in badminton now know that the best thing they can ever do for their kids is to discourage them from pursuing their dreams of turning professional.

The way the SBA cruelly axed the 10 shuttlers from their national team 2 squad just shows how much the national body values its full-time players.

My jaw dropped when I read the news report below today.

Effectively, the SBA were telling these teenagers and young adults that they had no more future in the sport, and that if they wanted to continue being in the national set-up, they would have to do it as sparring partners, and get this, without being paid any allowances.

I don’t understand how the SBA could have reached such a conclusion about these 18 and 19 year olds when just a year or two ago, it was inviting them to give up their studies for full-time training.

And now, after giving up two years of their lives, during which they could have completed their further studies, these shuttlers are being thrown out into the cold with not even any form of compensation or word or gesture of thanks and appreciation from the SBA.

Here’s my question to the SBA:

1. How in the world did you conclude in just two years that these shuttlers have no more potential in them to become world-class players? Most of them are just 18 or 19, for goodness sake!

2. And were you even fair to them in the first place?

Did you give them ample opportunities to develop themselves in the two years? I am sure that they, being Team 2 squad members, were not given as much attention or resources as the Team 1 squad. If so, then aren’t you to blame if they have not been developing as well as you would have liked?

This is  a black day for Singapore sports.

Sports administrators in Singapore have always been moaning about how it is so hard to get local youths to consider becoming full-time athletes, and here we have a national body who amazingly proceeds to throw 10 such passionate youths out in the streets.

I can only hope that the SBA will end up paying a high price for its decision and suffer the repercussions.

Shame on you, SBA. You guys are the shits and deserve to be spat on.

Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan

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