Imagine my pleasant surprise when I glanced at the front cover story of TODAY.
In an exclusive, the morning freesheet reported that Cheah Kim Teck, the former national relay sprinter and current chief executive officer of Jardine Cycle & Carriage, could emerge as a surprise candidate to challenge Loh Lin Kok for the presidency of the beleaguered and embattled Singapore Athletic Association.
What a surprising twist in the long-running saga that is Singapore athletics.
Some people may dismiss the story as pure speculation since Cheah himself opted not to comment when contacted.
However, I feel that there has to be some gfrain of truth to the report for it to become a Page One story. And as the saying goes, there is usually no smoke without fire.
To me, the key word and thus the key paragraph in the story was this:
“MediaCorp understands Mr Cheah Kim Teck (picture), former national sprinter turned corporate top boss, is set to throw his hat into the controversial ring…“
The word ‘understand’ is usually a journalistic trick employed by reporters to indicate that they have confirmed a piece of news with several reliable sources. However, they would have to use the word ‘understand’ But because the key figure in the story is not confirming anything. Notice though that the key figure, in this case Cheah, is NOT DENYING the rumour either.
How fun. It means we can expect some fireworks in the run-up to the SAA elections in June.
Now it remains to be seen whether the bulk of the 21 affiliates to the SAA, who hold the voting rights, and whose main officials have for years been well rewarded by the current regime, will continue to support Loh.
For at the end of the day, announcing the emergence of a new challenger is only one small piece of the puzzle. Whether the new contender can turn the bulk of the affiliates and get them to support him is another story altogether.
Here’s the report in case you’ve missed it today:
The right combination (TODAY, 4 Jan 2010)
Could former sprinter’s mix of talents be enough to save SAA?
By Low Lin Fhoong
SINGAPORE – Under fire in recent weeks for the lack of success from Singapore’s track and field athletes, veteran sports administrator Loh Lin Kok now faces the biggest challenge yet to his long-time position as president of the Singapore Athletic Association (SAA).
MediaCorp understands Mr Cheah Kim Teck (picture), former national sprinter turned corporate top boss, is set to throw his hat into the controversial ring.
The 57-year-old chief executive officer of Jardine Cycle & Carriage’s motor operations, some are convinced, is the man to rescue the SAA from the doldrums and restore its tarnished reputation, especially after the dismal SEA Games track-and-field showing in Laos last month.
Former sprint king C Kunalan is one who believes in his former teammate – who, along with Godfrey Jalleh and Ong Yeok Phee, made up the 1974 Asian Games quartet that set the national record of 3min 10.55sec in the 4x400m relay in Tehran.
“As an athlete, he will have the welfare of the whole sport in mind, and he has the heart to carry the sport forward,” said the 67-year-old.
“He’ll bring back the faith of all those who want to work for athletics. Right now, everybody is staying away and they don’t want to come forward and help because they are disillusioned. Kim Teck will motivate the fraternity into action.”
When contacted yesterday, Mr Cheah declined comment. But sources confirmed – and the track-and-field community has been abuzz with – his anticipated challenge to Mr Loh at the SAA’s upcoming annual general meeting which must be held by June.
Mr Loh, 62, has held the top post in SAA since 1982, except for a two-year period from 2004 when Mr Tang Weng Fei was at the helm.
At last month’s SEA Games in Laos, only men’s discus thrower James Wong and women’s shot put ace Zhang Guirong won gold medals out of a total of 45 athletics events.
Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports, lamented the fact that athletics was not pulling its weight in terms of success, while Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean urged the leadership in the SAA and the fraternity to undergo a “self-examination”.
Mr Cheah’s sporting background and business acumen has impressed some as being the combination the association needs.
As a runner, he was part of the medal-winning quartets at the 1969 and 1973 Seap Games. These days, besides overseeing his company’s motor operations in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, he sits on several boards including that of Singapore Totalisator and Mapletree Logistics Trust Management, with senior marketing experience in several MNCs on his resume.
Wings Athletic Club president Melvin Tan, who coached all four runners in the record-breaking 4x100m relay team that won silver in Vientiane last month, said: “His business connections will definitely be of help as associations now need to be run differently, in a more corporate and business-like way.
“A person of his position can do a lot more for the sport. And the fact that he wants to come in and serve shows that he is passionate about track and field.”
Mr Cheah is not the only veteran that could make a comeback in athletics. Mr Kunalan, now a National Institute of Education assistant professor, is not ruling out a return to the sport.
“Previously, I used to say that I was busy with work … but now, I may consider it as there seems to be an urgent need as we’ve reached a stage where more help is needed,” he told MediaCorp.
Mr Loh has been challenged four times during his tenure, twice each by fellow lawyer Mr Edmond Pereira (1983, 2000) and former SAA vice-president Mr Steven Lee (2002, 2006). Mr Kunalan was part of Mr Lee’s losing election team in 2006.
Yours in sport
Singapore Sports Fan