Tag Archives: Olympics

Newsflash: STTA saga is over – Antony Lee to leave in November; new head coach for men’s team

The controversy surrounding the “Gao Ning incident” is over, the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports announced at a specially-arranged press conference this evening.

After almost a week of intense discussions, the MCYS and the Singapore Table Tennis Association have seemingly resolved all the issues arising from the “Gao Ning incident” which has marred the national women’s team’s capture of the silver medal at the Beijing Olympics.

Said Community Development, Youth and Sports Minister Vivian Balakrishnan who chaired the press conference: “The crisis is over.”

The Minister was flanked by STTA president Lee Bee Wah, Teo Ser Luck, the Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Community Development, Youth and Sports, and International Olympic Council executive committee member Ng Ser Miang, who is also the chairman of Project 0812.

Sitting behind them were the coaches of and the players from the men’s and women’s national squads.

(Please click here for a recap amd summary of the “Gao Ning incident”)

It was announced at the press conference that team manager Antony Lee will still be leaving the STTA now that the Olympics are over. However, he will only be leaving in November and not on 31 August, as first anounced by STTA president Lee Bee Wah last week.

Antony Lee – who was seconded to the STTA from the Singapore Sports Council last year – will use the next three months to finish up all paperwork and reports related to the Olympics. He will then move on to a new position at the Singapore National Olympic Council after that. 

It looks too that head coach Liu Guodong will only be taking charge of the women’s national squad from now on.

It was announced at the press conference that there will be two head coaches from now on: a new head coach for the men’s team and one for the women’s team

Prior to this, Liu was overseeing both the men’s and women’s teams.

STTA president Lee Bee Wah – who only became the new STTA president on 12 July – also used the media confernece to publicly apologise for any hurt she may have caused during the “Gao Ning incident”.

“I sincerely apologise for causing any grievances and stress,” she said. 

Teo Ser Luck called for more public support for Lee as she settles into her role as president of the national sports association so that she can bring it to greater heights.

Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan

Related links:

29 August – Singapore table tennis: Time for the new STTA regime to decide what are its values

26 August – Singapore table tennis: some foreign talents are clearly more equal than others.

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Singapore table tennis: Time for new STTA regime to decide what are its values

I think I’ve found what I consider to be the best letter that has been written about the entire STTA saga to date. I spotted it in today’s edition of The New Paper, and I just found myself nodding my head again and again as I read it.

It’s by TNP reader Mark Koh Fu MIng and it distills the controversy to its very essence – a clash of values:

“I refer to the article “Can of worms already there” (The New Paper, 28 Aug) on the table tennis saga.

“I feel that Singaporeans should not be blinded by the success of the Singapore women’s table tennis team and be disillusioned by the fundamental principles that have been ignored as a result of wanting success in the women’s event.

“While a player should be able to play without his coach present, such resources should never be lacking in the first place.

“I think it is both unfair to the men’s table tennis team as well as contrary to the Olympic values of sportsmanship, for head coach to justify the situation by claiming that he “would rather the women come in second and the men come in 16th than have both teams come in fourth.”

If Singapore’s participation in the Olympics is all about winning medals, then I am saddened that it is in pursuit of sporting glory without caring a whim about the Olympic values of xcelence, firendship, and respect.

“As a nation, we should allocate equal resources to sportsmen who represent us – regardless of ability – for sporting glory. That is the least we can do in respecting those individuals who have sacrificed so much just to represent our country.

“The table tennis saga has indeed opened a can of worms.

“If in the table tennis team, the men are neglected in terms of resources because the women have a higher chance of sporting success, then would this not imply that, in the future, Singaporeans will be neglected, and resources will be allocated to foreign talent who are deemed to be potentially more capable of achieving sporting excellence?

“With Singapore hosting the Youth Olympics in 2010, I think the nation has to reflect on this relentless pursuit of sporting glory and the means that we resort to in achieving such success.

“How are we going to educate the youths of the world about the Olympic ideals when this entire fiasco has shown our mercenary attitude towards achieving success?”

– From “Champions of a different set of values” (The New Paper, 29 Aug 2008)     

Absolutely brilliant, Mark, and absolutely spot on. And kudos too to The New Paper for publishing this letter.

Why is this letter important?

Simply this: one can continue to debate about who was right or wrong in the “Gao Ning” controversy but the bottom line, I feel, is that this current fiasco represents the perfect time – and the perfect opportunity – for the new STTA regime to take a stand and decide what are its values with regards to the development of the sport in Singapore and the pursuit of sporting excellence.

We now know what the old STTA regime stood for. It was clearly indicated in head coach Liu Guodong’s behaviour and his quotes over the past two days.

Liu even conceded that his relationship with the men’s team went to pieces because he favoured the women. But it is immaterial, he said, because his target was to get a medal and he had delivered.

In yesterday’s edition of The Straits Times, Liu was also quoted as saying that he would now only consider staying on as head coach if he is given the following assurances about his role:

“I need space to do my job. I need to be able to make decisions that won’t be second-guessed. And I can’t have people trying to disrupt what I am trying to achieve here.”

– From “Now Undecided” (The Straits Times, 28 August 2008)

In other words, Liu is unrepentent about how he went about achieving the feat of winning Singapore’s first Olympic medal since 1960. And he wants to continue to do things his way.

Now, the new STTA regime has to decide: does it want this kind of coaching philosophy to continue?

It’s cold, brutal and cynical but hey, it delivers results, doesn’t it?

So is this what the STTA wants ultimately as it seeks to build upon the foundations for excellence laid down by the women’s team silver medal win?

Is this good for the long-term interests of the sport?

What does this mean for the development of local talent especially when one knows that our local paddlers will probably never be good enough to compete at Olympic level.  

These are tough questions. Once answered, they will not only form the STTA’s guiding principles for the governance of the sport in Singapore, but could well also form the blueprint for the pursuit of sporting glory for all other national sports associations.

Now, that’s a scary thought.. 

So keep your eyes opened over the next few days or months.

Because you could well be witnessing either the re-birth of the development of local table-tennis talent – and Singapore sport in general – or hearing its death knell.

Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan 

Related links

26 Aug: Singapore Table Tennis – Some foreign talents are clearly more equal than others

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Newsflash: Li Jiawei loses to nemesis Zhang Yining in semis

Li Jiawei’s losing streak to China’s Zhang Yining stretched to 13 games this morning as she went down 1-4 to her former Beijing Sports School teammate in the women’s singles semi-finals.

The 26-year-old lost 11-9. 8-11, 10-12, 8-11, 5-11 to Zhang who maintained her Games record of not losing more than one set in all competitions.

The result does not mean that Singapore’s hopes of winning its second Olympic medal at the Beijing Games are over.

Just like in the Athens Games, Li still hasa shot at the bronze medal. But it will be tough as the world No 6 will play world no 2 Guo Yue who lost 2-4 to compatriot Wang Nan in the other semi-final (11-3, 8-11, 11-4, 7-11, 3-11, 6-11). 

Olympic champion Zhang was given a surprisingly tough time by Singapore’s Feng Tianwei in the quarter-finals before triumphing 4-1 and it looked like Li took a leaf from Feng’s tenancious, attacking play this morning.

She got off to a good start, her aggressive, attacking play giving her a surprise 10-5 lead. But a lapse in concentration enabled Zhang to reduce the deficit to 9-10 before Li finally grabbed the two remaining points and the first set.

But Zhang, buoyed by constant cheers of “Jia You” from the home crowd at the Peking University of Technology Gymnasium, was in commanding form in the second set, racing to a 7-5 lead before eventually winning 11-8. 

The third set was a see-sawing nail-biter. Zhang led 3-2 before Li reeled off a string of winners to reverse it into a 6-4 advantage. But Zhang came back to make it 7-6. The two women battled it out to 9-9 and then 10-10 before two mistakes by Li gave Zhang the set at 12-10.

With Zhang leading 2-1, Li knew she had to win the next set so as not to cede the psychological advantage to the world No 1. Which probably explains why she went on an attacking blitz from the start, setting up opportunities which she then smashed with gusto for the kill.

She opened up a 5-3 lead. But then it went downhill from there. Zang caught up to level the score a t5-5 before moving ahead 8-6. She then made it 10-8 before Singapore coach Liu Guodong called for a time-out to give Li some respite. But the call didn’t work. Both women returned to the table and seconds later, Zhang hit the winning shot to make it 11-8 for a 3-1 lead.

And with that, Li started to crumble mentally. That much one could see on her face as Zhang went for blood. It was as if the world No 1 then decided to go into fifth gear and raise her game to the next level as she sped to a 3-6 lead. 

Those familiar weak smiles of resignation started to appear on Li’s face, a surefire tell-tale sign of her weakening resolve, and Zhang struck again and again to make it 10-4.

Li won back a point back but it was too little too late. Zhang hit a stinging smash and it was game over.

Li wll play against Guo Yue for the  bronze medal tonight at 730pm.

Related links:

21 Aug: Newsflash – Li Jiawei is last Singapore paddler left standing in women’s table tennis singles

17 Aug: Singapore loses 0-3 to China but wins first Olympic medal in 48 years

15 Aug: Who is Feng Tianwei? Here is some info on her…

15 Aug: Women paddlers breakour 48-year Olympic drought

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