Tag Archives: Liu Guodong

Snub of Churchill and Foo shows that the Sports Awards are a farce

The report:

This report was published in today’s edition of TODAY:

It’s a cop-out, says Tao Li’s coach (TODAY, 7 May 2009) 

By Low Lin Fhoong  

THE Singapore Table Tennis Association’s (STTA) decision not to nominate Liu Guodong for Coach of the Year honours for this year’s Singapore Sports Awards has created quite a stir.

The selection committee, headed by Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) president Teo Chee Hean, revealed on Tuesday that they considered giving the Chinese coach the nod even without the national sports association’s endorsement, after he helped guide the women’s table tennis team to a silver medal at the Beijing Games last year.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo said that eventually, the committee felt the STTA’s decision not to nominate Liu held sway and for the ninth time since the award was introduced in 1969, there were no winners in the category.

Nominees Peter Churchill (swimming), Mervyn Foo (bowling), Brett Bayer (sailing) and Yuan Kexia (gymnastics) were bypassed, as SNOC secretary general Chris Chan said the committee felt the other candidates paled in comparison “to what he (Liu) has delivered so we felt there was no worthy winner”.

When contacted yesterday, Singapore Sports School coach Churchill expressed his disappointment over the selectors’ claim that the four nominees were not deserving of the accolade.

In a telephone interview with Today, the Aussie said: “It’s disappointing that they think the four people nominated are not good enough for it. That’s a pretty big cop out because there are other coaches who turned up on the day and did the job.

“The STTA didn’t want to nominate the coach for various reasons, it doesn’t mean that none of the other coaches are not worthy of being in the race for it.

“Its like if a marathon is on and the favourite for it doesn’t turn up, then well and good for everyone else. It doesn’t mean to say you don’t have the race.

“There were four people who were nominated, and one of them should win.”

Churchill, together with the Singapore Swimming Association (SSA) and Sports School, helped guide swimming sensation Tao Li to her first 100m butterfly Olympic final in Beijing, where she finished fifth.

The 19-year-old also won three gold and a bronze in the seven-leg Fina/Arena Swimming World Cup 2008 short course (25m) series, and bettered Natalie Coughlin’s 100m fly record in the Berlin-leg in the process.

The SSA had nominated Churchill based on his track record with Tao Li, and president Jeffrey Leow said: “Peter was Tao Li’s coach last year and he played a substantial role in helping her achieve what she did last year and it was a natural thing to nominate him for the award. We believe Peter deserved a shot at the Coach of the Year … but we respect the decision.”

Olympic shooter Lee Wung Yew felt Churchill should have been the next choice for the award.

“In a way, it’s unfair,” said the marksman. “If you put down all the coaches on the table, table tennis will win but he wasn’t nominated amid the controversy, so next in line would have been Peter Churchill because of his achievements with Tao Li.”

Former national swimmer David Lim echoed the sentiment.

“Peter Churchill deserved to win based on Tao Li’s performance,” said the Olympian. “Swimming is a competitive sport with over 100 countries participating in events like the Olympics, and Tao Li managed to finish fifth in her event.”

My thoughts:

This was for me the most relevant story of the day in the aftermath of the Singapore Sports Awards judging panel’s farcical decision  to not name a winner for the Coach of the Yar Award just because table-tennis coach Liu Guodong was not one of the nominees.

So kudos to TODAY for being sharp enough to pick this up.

As swimming coach Peter Churchill – who would have been the most deserving of the award in Liu’s absence – aptly puts it: “There were four people who were nominated, and one of them should win.” 

One can say that this situation is no different from that of the Sportsman of the Year Award.

The panel felt that all the nominees were not worthy of the Award and as such, decided not to name a winner this year.

I beg to differ. The field for this year’s Sportsman Award was quite a poor one.

If I am not mistaken, Remy Ong was probably the best contender for the Award but he was nominated for his achievements at Commonwealth Championships level, which, to be honest, at his level,  is quite a low-level achievement at a low -level international competition.

(Actually, I was surprised that golfer Lam Chih Beng wasn’t among the list of nominations. Given that he had won his first Asian Tour title, the Volvo Masters of Asia, last year, and also became the first Singaporean golfer to qualify for the final stages of the British Open, I thought he would have made a worthy recipient.)

But in the case of the Coach of the Year Award, it was a insult by the judging panel to declare that what the other nominees had achieved paled in comparison to the Olympic silver medal that Liu had guided the women’s national team to at the Beijing Games last August.

What complete and utter rubbish.

 Does the panel mean to say that Churchill’s efforts in transforming Tao Li, a no-hoper at the start of the Games, into

a)  the first Singaporean swimmer to qualify for an Olympic final and then,

b) into the first Singaporean swimmer to win gold and set a new record at  the Fina World Cup, 

pale in comparison to Liu’s?

Likewise, it was equally insulting of the panel to look down on Mervyn Foo’s efforts in transforming Jasmine Yeong-Nathan from a wallflower bowler into Singapore’s first winner of the AMF World Cup. 

If Jasmine can be named as the Sportswoman of the Year, then surely the logic must follow that the man behind her achievements should also be strongly considered for the Coach of the Year Award.

What I was most  appalled by though was the revelation that the judging panel had decided way before it convened that Liu should be the winner, and that it had considered giving him the Award even though he was not nominated by the Singapore Table Tennis Association.

Good grief! In that case, I would like to ask: why bother to even have a judging panel? 

Isn’t the word ‘judging’ a sham then, in this case?

In the aftermath of all this farcical nonsense, I think the best solution is to scrap the Awards altogether.

Instead, from now on, it’s probably best to just organise an annual Gala Night to celebrate and commemorate Singapore’s sporting achievements of the past year.

To Churchill and Foo, my deepest condolences.

I feel really sorry for the way you two unwittingly became pawns in such a silly game of  one-upmanship.

Singapore sport is truly all the poorer as a result of this.

Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan       

Related links:

5 May 2009 – Newsflash: Jasmine Yeong-Nathan is Sportswoman of the Year

20 March 2009 – Right move by the STTA not to nominate Liu for Coach of the Year Award

15 November 2008 – Newsflash: Jasmine is Singapore’s first AMF World Cup champion

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Newsflash: Jasmine Yeong-Nathan is Sportswoman of the Year

National bowler Jasmine Yeong-Nathan has been named Singapore’s Sportswoman of the Year.

The 20-year-old, who created history last year when she became the first Singaporean ever to win the AMF World Cup, was voted the winner by a Sports Awards judging panel.

The other contenders for the award were paddler Li Jiawei, who finished fourth in the women’s singles at the Beijing Olympics and swimmer Tao Li, who became the first Singaporea swimmer to qualify for an Olympic final and also broke the Asian 100m butterfly mark en route to her fifth-placed finish in the final.

According to a report on Newsradio 93.8FM, Yeong-Nathan won the award by seven votes to four.

The Singapore Polytechnic student was in devastating form at the 44th QubicAMF World Cup in Mexico. She not only racked up a perfect game there but also destroyed defending champion Ann-Maree Putney of Australia 263-222, 298-215 in the final.

Prior to Yeong-Nathan’s World Cup win, Singapore’s best finish in the tournament were Henry Tan and Remy Ong’s silvers in the men’s finals in 1970 and 2002 respectively.

But the Sports Awards also had several twists this year.

The panel decided there were no worthy winners this year for the Sportsman and Coach of the Year Awards.

This is the first time in the 42-year history of the Awards that there is no winner for the Sportsman Award. Bowler Remy ONg was one of the nominees. It is not known who were the other nominees.

Two known nominees for the Coach of the Year Award were national bowling Mervyn Foo, who is one of Jasmine Yeong-Nathan’s coaches, and Australian swimming coach Peter Churchill, who coaches Tao Li. 

In another twist, Singapore National Olympic Council president Teo Chee Hean told Channel News Asia that table-tennis coach Liu Guodong would have easily won the Coach of the Year Award if the Singapore Table Tennis Association had nominated him.

Liu led the women’s national team to a silver at the Olympics but the achievement was subsequently clouded by shocking revelations that he had neglected the men’s squad’s preparations for the Olympics.

In fact, the men were often used as sparring partners for the women, said male paddler Gao Ning in subsequent media interviews. Nor did they not enjoy the same resources or priviliges as the women in the run-up to and during the Games.

Liu was chastised publicly by new STTA president Lee Bee Wah who hinted that his sevices might not be retained.

He eventually resigned from the STTA after expressing disgust at a new contract that he was offered, saying the terms were an insult to him.

But when contacted yesterday, Lee stood her ground and defended her association’s decision not to nominate Liu. “Coach of the Year must be naturally well-respected by all the players of the team,” she said.  

 Bowler Jazreel Tan won the Sportsgirl of the Year Award while the Sportsboy Award went to wushu exponent Yong Yixiang.

Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan  

Related links:

15 November 2008 – Newsflash: Jasmine is Singapore’s first AMF World Cup champion

20 March 2009 – Right move by the STTA not to nominate Liu for Coach of the Year Award

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Right move by STTA not to nominate Liu for Coach of the Year Award

The report:

This report came out in The Straits Times on 18 Mach 2009:

Liu not up for top coach award (The Straits Times, 18 March 2009)


By Leonard Lim


A PROMINENT name will be missing when Singapore National Olympic Council selectors sit down to decide on the Coach of the Year award.


Checks yesterday showed that former national table tennis head coach Liu Guodong was not among the list of nominees submitted by the Singapore Table Tennis Association for the SNOC’s annual awards.


The deadline for national sports associations’ submissions was last Friday. The judges are expected to meet next month or in May, and a gala ceremony to honour the winners is scheduled for June.


The accolades are the country’s highest sporting honours, and include those for the Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year.


The Olympic silver medal-winning women’s table tennis team of Li Jiawei, Wang Yuegu and Feng Tianwei have been nominated for the Team of the Year.


Liu was expected to be a major contender for the Coach of the Year category after his role in delivering Singapore‘s first Olympic medal in 48 years.


Liu, now the head coach of Indonesia, said over the telephone from Jakarta yesterday: ‘I think I’d have been a shoo-in for the award, after giving so much joy to Singaporeans last year.


‘I contributed so much in my three years in Singapore, but now my achievements are not being recognised.’


Under him, the paddlers also swept all seven golds – a first – at the 2007 South-east Asia Games in Thailand.


Last March, the 34-year-old also led the women to a silver at the World Team Championships.


STTA president Lee Bee Wah declined comment when contacted.


The nominees in the coaching category include Mervyn Foo, who coached AMF World Cup bowling champion Jasmine Yeong-Nathan.


Previous winners include football’s Raddy Avramovic (2007) and water polo’s Tan Eng Bock (1977).


Chris Chan, the SNOC’s secretary-general, said the organisation’s task was to select the winners, with achievements as the main criteria.


He said: ‘It is up to individual NSAs to nominate whoever they feel deserves to win.’


And while Lee declined to give details, there are factors which could explain why the STTA did not put Liu’s name up.


The Henan native was held responsible for the ‘Gao Ning’ incident, where Singapore‘s No. 1 men’s player found himself with no coach for his Olympic third-round singles match. He crashed out to a lower-ranked Croat.


In October, Liu – whose contract ran out at the end of last year – also rejected a new two-year offer, calling it ‘insulting’ and ‘insincere’.


But a veteran sports official, who declined to be named, said: ‘Even if Liu’s left, his track record speaks for itself.


‘He would have been a worthy winner, and the win would have been good for continuing to raise the sport’s profile.’

My thoughts:

The Singapore Table Tennis Association and former national table tennis coach Liu Guodong may have parted ways less than amiably, especially after the China national had described the new contract that the STTA offered him as ‘insulting’ and ‘insincere’.

But I don’t think there is any malice behind the national sports  association’s decision not to nominate Liu for the Singapore National Olympic Council’s Coach of the Year Award.

Nor do I think that the decision lacked graciousness nor a sense of  gratitude to the man who helped to deliver Singapore’s first Olympic medal in 48 years at the Beijing Olympics.

Instead, I feel that the decision not only shows the integrity of the new management that is now helming the association but also gives us a strong idea of the sort of sporting values that it holds dear.

Liu may be a top coach but the methods he employed to get that silver medal for Singapore were far from palatable. In fact, when they were revealed, they really left a bad taste in the mouth.

In the aftermath of the ‘Gao Ning fiasco’, which resulted in STTA president Lee Bee Wah’s public chastising of Liu and nationa team manager Antony Lee, which in turn led to the souring of the so-called euphoria that surrounded Singapore’s capture of the women’s team silver medal at the Olympics, we now know that      

i. the preparation and training of the men’s team for the Olympics was considered a lower priority than that of developing the women’s team

ii. the members of the men’s team were used as sparring partners for the women’s team,

iii. the men’s team had to share rooms at the Olympic Village whereas each member of the women’s team had individual single rooms

iv. some women players were favoured more than others. In fact, one of the strongest rumours floating around the table tennis community prior to the Olympics was how everything was done to try to ensure that a particular player would get as high a world ranking, even to the point of ordering the other members to lose to her when they ended up facing her in the finals of ITTF Pro Tour tournaments.

Truly, I was sickened when I read all these revelations in the aftermath of the Olympics.

Which is also why I instantly  lost my respect for Liu as a coach. 

Yes, he may have the expertise and the technical ability to lead teams and players to the top, but it is also clear that his value system is a barren wasteland.

“I would rather the women come in second and the men come in 16th than for both teams to come in fourth,” was what Liu told the media when queried about his coaching methods.

I do not subscribe to the philosophy that the ends always justify the means.  

So I don’t believe that the Olympic silver medal that was won meant that all the things that were done to ensure its capture were therefore justified.

I believe in sportsmanship, in fairness and in the notion that everyone deserves an equal chance at development so that they will be at their peak and most prepared when the time comes to do battle on the international stage, regardless of whether such a philosophy might affect our chances of winning an Olympic medal.

At the end of the day, there are just some things that are more important than a bloody sports prize.

And so yes, I do believe that the STTA did the right thing in opting not to nominate Liu for the Coach of the Year Award.  

I believe that the calculated move is one loaded with meaning, and that it sends the right reassurances and mesages not just to the table tennis community but to the Singapore sporting community at large.

So, take a bow, STTA. 

Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan  

Related links:

26 Aug 2008 – Singapore Table Tennis: Some Foreign Sports Talents are clearly more equal than others

29 Aug 2008 – Singapore Table Tennis: Time for new STTA regime to decide what are its values

31 Oct 2008 – Winds of change starting to blow through the STTA halls

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