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.
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