Tag Archives: Muhammad Elfi Mustapha

Meet the coach of the SEA Games silver medal-winning, national record-breaking 4x100m relay team

The report:

As you can tell from my previous postings, one of the reasons why Singapore Athletic Association president Loh Lin Kok came out with guns a-firing after being criticised by Sports Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan and Senior Parliamentary Secretary (Community Development, Youth and Sports) Teo Ser Luck was the national 4x100m relay quartet’s surprise silver at the SEA Games.

After watching Gary Yeo, Muhammad Elfi Mustapha, Muhamad Amirudin Jamal and Lee Cheng Wei smash the national record, go under the 40-sec barrier for the first time, and book their tickets to the Asian and Commonwealth Games, Loh triumphantly used their feat to show that, contrary to public perception, the SAA is achieving results at regional level.

Loh told The New Paper:

“Today, I’m very proud of my 4×100m team which won the silver medal behind the Thais, despite all our known setbacks.

“We did it all since April this year – the start of our financial year – without a single cent in funding from the SSC for preparing for this SEA Games. We spent $140,000 since, from our reserves to help pay our staff, coaches, train athletes for this SEA Games.”

Likewise, Loh triumphantly told The Straits Times:

“It’s really a case of double elation. The team broke the 40-second barrier and they are raised by our own funding. This silver is worth a lot. To me, it is at least half a gold medal.

“The 4x100m silver medal is proof that the SAA is rejuvenating. Our development plans are starting to bear fruit.’’

Trust The New Paper to go a step further.

Instead of taking Loh’s words at face value, they decided to find out just who was the actual coach of the boys making the national relay squad. The result is the report below.

And The New Paper report raises three pertinent points:

– why wasn’t Melvin Tan, the coach of five of the sprinters in the relay squad, sent to the SEA Games?


– why wasn’t he even publicly thanked or acknowledged by ANY SAA official for his role in developing the runners?

and finally,

– now that Melvin has been revealed as the real coach of these sprinters, who did not receive any funding from the SAA for grooming these sprint talents, and who was not even given the chance to be with his boys in Laos, what exactly does the SAA mean by ‘our development plans are starting to bear fruit’?

Does it mean taking the fruit of other people’s labour?

Tsk, tsk.

Why don’t you be the judge? Here’s the report by The New Paper for you to read:


Unknown HERO behind the relay HEROES

(The New Paper, 19 December 2009)

By Ernest Luis

THE MAN responsible for training the Singapore 4x100m relay runners who won a surprise silver on Thursday was nowhere to be seen celebrating with them in Laos.

Instead, Singaporeans watched a tearful sprints coach Hamkah Afik celebrating with the quartet of Gary Yeo, 23, and Elfi Mustapha, Lee Cheng Wei and Amirudin Jamal – all aged 22 – as they helped to athletics complete a ‘two golds and one silver’ haul.

But the man who trained them regularly since – after the last South-east Asia Games – is Melvin Tan.

He was in Singapore minding his own business on Thursday.

Silent with pride that he played a part, he was shocked when The New Paper called him yesterday to meet.

So why was this silent reluctant hero behind the relay heroes, having coffee with The New Paper when a sprints coach like him should have been with the Singapore Athletic Association (SAA) SEA Games coaching team, together with Hamkah?

After all, in other sports like swimming, the competitors have their own individual coaches being part of the national coaching team sent to Laos.

The connection between Tan and the relay sprinters is that they are all his own runners from the Wings Athletics Club, formed in 2001.

Tan, 42, a sprints coach for Raffles Institution, is also the president of Wings.

Of the six sprinters sent to the SEA Games, Poh Seng Song – who didn’t run in the relay final – is also a Wings runner.

Tan told The New Paper: ‘The answer to your question about why I’m here sitting with you in Singapore, is history.

‘I joined the SAA from September 2004 to September 2005 before I left.

‘I wanted to help make things better for Singapore athletics but I found it impossible then with all the obstacles put in our way.

‘I’m not surprised to see Singapore athletics in the news for the right reasons and wrong reasons too, all at the same time.’

Tan read The New Paper yesterday and highlighted the plea of SAA’s president Loh Lin Kok.

Loh said SAA had been forced to spend $140,000 of its reserves to help pay staff, coaches and train athletes for this SEA Games – since April – when the Singapore Sports Council withheld funding from then on.

No funding

Tan told The New Paper: ‘I’ve trained the boys for free. I’ve not received any funding.’

In The New Paper yesterday, Mr Loh said a National Sports Association will have affiliates, and he mentioned the example of the Sports School and its jump coach Valeri Obidko being part of the SEA Games coaching team. That they all work together for Singapore athletics. That this is the system.

But Tan countered: ‘Wings is an affiliate of SAA. But we don’t get any funding from them (despite Wings providing five of the six sprinters in Laos). What is the system then?’

On the boys and Hamkah, Tan said: ‘I speak to Hamkah and they’ve done well there. The boys are the first team here to break the 40-second barrier for Singapore and that’s a historic breakthrough, but they have a long way to go and must keep their feet on the ground, as they are far behind at the Asian level.

‘I just train the boys on my own, for the sake of Singapore.

‘The SAA has to realise there is a problem here, and not paint the picture that there’s nothing wrong. I’m not the only coach in Singapore with a story like this.’


Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan

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SEA Games: Zhang Guirong wins shot-put gold; men’s 4x100m team wins silver in new national record time

Shot putter Zhang Guirong may have won a second athletics gold for Singapore at the SEA Games today but it was the men’s national 4x100m quartet that was the talk of the town after their surprise silver in the event.

Gary Yeo, Muhammad Elfi Mustapa, Lee Cheng Wei and Muhammad Amirudin Jamal ran the relay of their lives when they clocked a new national record time of 39.82sec to finish second behind Thailand on the final day of the SEA Games track and field competition.

The time was 0.18sec faster than the national mark of 40.10sec which was set at the 2007 Korat Games. Of that quartet, only Gary Yeo is the sole surviving member while Poh Seng Song, who was also part of that quartet, was a reserve today.

Indonesia was third while Laos finished fourth in the four-country race.

The silver will  be particularly sweet to Amirudin who narrowly missed out on the 100m bronze by 0.01sec on Monday.

And you can also be  sure that the achievments will also be gleefully used by embattled Singapore Athletic Association president Loh Lin Kok as ammunition to rebut a recent spate of criticisms of his administration from top sporting officials.

On Tuesday, during a Team Singapore gathering at the Singapore embassy in Vientiane, Sports Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan had said that the SAA needs to do an internal house cleaning.

“Without athletics firing on all cylinders, Singapore’s final performance in multi-sport events will always be hamstrung,” he said in one of the strongest rebukes of the SAA in recent years.

Yesterday, Teo Ser Luck, the Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Community Development, Youth and Sports, fired another salvo at the SAA.

Speaking after James Wong’s victory in the discus, he said he was disappointed that in the flagship sport of every multi-sport Games, Singapore are standing still.

“I can’t say we are a sporting nation until we sort things out in athletics,” he said pointedly.

“We have a strong swimming tradition which also has a renewal process. I need athletics to step up.”

One athlete who certainly stepped up today was  Zhang.

The 31-year-old shot-putter whose testy relationship with the SAA over the past few years coincided with a massive slump in form, bounced back from the wilderness in style by capturing the women’s gold today.

The China-born naturalised citizen, who holds the national record of 18.57m but was a major flop at last year’s Beijing Olympics with her best effort of 16.23m, threw an improved 17.12m today to successfully defend her crown.

Zhang’s win means that Singapore came away from the last day fo the track and field competition with a total haul of two golds and a silver, a paltry collection of medals considering that 45 gold medals were at stake in athletics in Vientiane.

Singapore finished seventh out of nine countries, just above Laos and Cambodia who both won a bronze each. Thailand was the overall champion with 14 golds.

Meanwhile, the national U-23 football team won the bronze for the second consecutive Games when they beat host Laos 3-1 in the third-fourth place play-offs in front of a 20,000-strong partisan crowd.

Singapore, meek and outclassed 1-4 by Vietnam in the semi-finals, bounced back with a more positive performance against Laos. They were also clearly the superior side.

Khairul Nizam, Fazli Ayub and Fadhil Noor scored to give Singapore a 3-0 lead before Lamnao Singto pulled one back in the 88th minute.

However, it must be said that the consolation goal inspired the Laotians to go on a late charge and caused Singapore to experience some nerve-wracking moments during the seven minutes of stoppage time.

Singapore also won a silver in the women’s 9-ball in  cuesports and in women’s badminton doubles

Charlene Chai tried her best but was unable to stop reigning world champion Rubilyn Amit of the Philippines from winning 7-3.

Singapore pair Yao Lei and Shinta Mulia Sari were also out of their depth as they were outclassed 12-21, 11-21 by Malaysia’s Chin Ee Hui and Wong Pei Tty in the badminton doubles final.

Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan

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Seng Song needs a good 100m time at Asian C’ships to shut his critics up

It’s going to be crunch time for national sprinter Poh Seng Song at next week’s Asian Track and Field Championships (Nov 10-14) in Guangzhou, China.

The 26-year-old is part of the 12-strong Singapore contingent taking part in the meet as a final tune-up for next month’s South-east Asia Games in Laos, but he will probably be the one under the most pressure to perform.

For he has not been able to better or equal his personal best of 10.49sec this year ever since he clocked that time at last December’s Asean University Games to qualify for the SEA Games.

Since then, Seng Song’s times have hovered in the 10.80sec region. He has clocked 10.82sec (Vietnam Open), 10.81sec (Perak Open), 10.85sec (Taipei Open) and 10.85sec (Malaysia Open).

And now it seems that his precious slot in the 100m in Laos is at stake.

Some quarters in the local athletics community point to fast-improving newcomer Muhammad Elfi Musapha as a natural replacement for Seng Song. The 22-year-old has clocked 10.62sec and 10.59sec at the Perak and Taipei Opens respectively, the latter time being the fastest time clocked by a Singapore sprinter this year.

However, Elfi has yet to meet the 10.54sec timing that would immediately qualify him as a contender for the 100m slot. He, like Seng Song, is currently part of the 4x100m relay team that has been selected for the SEA Games.

So if Elfi, who is coached by Melvin Tan*, does meet the qualifying time at next week’s Asian Championships, then Seng Song’s place in the blue riband event will be under severe threat.

(There is another sprinter – Muhammad Amirudin – who has qualified for the 100m. But his place apparently seems to be under less theat as he has clocked two faster times than Seng Song this year ie 10.81sec in the Perak Open and 10.70sec at the Taipei Open).

Seng Song, who is a lecturer at ITE Simei, says that his current times should not be held against him as he is working towards peaking at the SEA Games. He also says that he was having the flu durng the Vietnam,Perak and Taipei meets.

Unfortunately, observers can always point to U K Syam’s magnificent run of improving results (he went from 10.70 sec to a new national record of 10.37sec) in the lead-up to the 2001 SEA Games as a counter-argument to Seng Song’s claims.

Whatever the case, it looks like Seng Song desperately needs to put in a good show and clock a good time at the Asian Championships just to silence his critics.

I really hope he does.

Because if he doesn’t, and if he ends up losing his place in the end, then you can kiss team unity in the 4x100m relay goodbye.

Apart from the men’s 4x100m relay squad, the other athletes competing in Guangzhou include discus throwers* Wan Lay Chi and Scott Wong, pole vaulter Rachel Yang and jumpers Michelle Sng (high) Matthew Goh (long) and Stefan Tseng (triple).

It will be interesting to see if the higher level of competition at the Asian Championships can push any of these athletes towards achieving new personal bests.

That would be a wonderful personal morale boost as they go into the final weeks before the SEA Games.

Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan


Some changes (indicated by an *) have been made to this blog entry to reflect factual accuracy.  I would like to thank  Speed Demon for pointing them out (see his comment below)

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