Tag Archives: Singapore Amateur Athletics Association

Wonderful Saturday: Ting Wen breaks national record; Lay Chi qualifies for SEA Games

The reports:

I found these two small reports in today’s edition of The Sunday Times.

Quah Ting Wen’s breaking of Joscelin Yeo’s national 50m freestyle record at the National Age-Group Swimming Championships was a seven-paragraph report dwarved by the story it was placed next to – that of unknown Chinese shuttler Wang Yihan who emerged out of nowhere to defeat Denmark’s Tine Rasmussen to take the All-England women singles title:

Ting Wen breaks Jos’ 50m mark (The Sunday Times, 15 March 2009)


By Jonathan Wong


Quah Ting Wen yesterday lowered the women’s national 50 metres freestyle record to 25.80 seconds.


The Raffles Junior College student, 17, rewrote Joscelin Yeo’s 2005 record of 26.13sec at the National Age Group Swimming Championships at the Singapore Sports School.


‘I’m very happy and surprised. My training hasn’t changed much and I didn’t prepare specifically for this competition,” she said.


‘I just try to swim my best at each race and not to think too much about breaking records. It’s a pleasant bonus though.’


Her effort also secured her the Under-17 record, a day after Amanda Lim had broken Ting Wen’s previous best of 26.39 by seven hundredths of a second.


It was Ting Wen’s second national record. She had broken another of Joscelin’s records at the Beijing Olympics last year, clocking 4min 51.25sec for the 400m individual medley.


In other races Shana Lim, 15, eclipsed Tao Li’s Under-17 national mark in the 100m backstroke in 1:03.42 and Lionel Khoo, 13, bettered his previous bests in the 50m (30.53) and 100m breaststroke (1:06.89). Joseph Schooling, also 13, claimed a personal-best in the 100m butterfly (59.40).


The meet ends tomorrow.

The report of national discus thrower Wan Lay Chi qualifying for the SEA Games was even smaller – a three-paragraph write-up in the Sports Briefs column:

Wan’s best throw (The Sunday Times, 15 March 2009)


Wan Lay Chi set a personal best of 47.74 metres in winning the discus throw at the 3rd All-Comers Athletics Meet at Gombak Stadium yesterday.


Her previous best was 47.17m in another All-Comers meet three years ago.


To add to the 19-year-old’s joy, she also met the qualification mark of 45.73m for December’s South-east Asia Games in Laos.

My thoughts:

I felt it was a real pity that the feats of these two young local athletes ended up being given such limited coverage.

Sure, I can understand the newspapers’ need to serve the interests of its readers and focus on stories which they think, hence the huge coverage given to the Liverpool-Manchester United game and other EPL matches.

I guess the people behind the sports pages must have also felt that the lifting of Malaysia Cup hero Abbas Saad’s lifetime ban in Singapore was also significant news (especially for those who can still remember the Malaysia Cup days) and as such, merited in that full-page profile piece on the retired Australian footballer, now a youth coach in Sydney.

But I still can’t help feeling that more coverage (or editorial acreage, in journalistic parlance) could have been given to the achievements of these two young and upcoming members of Team Singapore.

I mean, here are two wonderful moments of achievement in local sport for us to savour, by young, local emerging athletes. And yet this is all the amount of space that can be spared for them?

Look at what Ting Wen has accomplished: she broke Joscelin Yeo’s long-standing national 50m freestyle record by 0.5secs. It is also the second time she has broken a mark set by Joscelin Yeo.

Ting Wen’s feat means two things – that

 a) our one-time swim queen Joscelin Yeo is slowly but surely being erased from the national record books and

b) that Ting Wen is slowly coming of age and emerging as a top-class swimmer that Singapore can count on to deliver a couple of individual  SEA Games gold medals at Laos at the end of the year.

After all, from 1993 to 2005, Joscelin was practically the saviour of the Singapore Amateur Swimming Association, and the queen of Singapore sports.

She would single-handedly deliver most of the swimming golds for Singapore at the SEA Games.

And thanks to her, Singapore would end up toting up a respectable haul of golds at the biennial regional Games and finishing a respectable fifth in the overall medal standings.

Most of her national records were also SEA Games records.

Honestly, I would have preferred to have read more about Ting Wen than Wang Lihan today.

Likewise, it would have been nice to read more about Lay Chi in today’s papers. Doesn’t qualifying for the SEA Games warrant more space than three paragraphs?

After all, it means that the 21-year-old thrower – who is seen as the local successor to the China-born Zhang Guirong – has now met the bronze-medal winning distance of the previous SEA Games,  the qualifying benchmark for this year’s Games.

And really, it’s been quite a while since we’ve heard of any news of this former Teck Whye Secondary School student, who, incidentally, was part of the generation of promising throwers that the school produced in the late 1990s under the tutelage of Choo Chee Kiong.

 I last read about her at the 2007 SEA Games in Korat where she finished fourth in the shot put, missing the bronze by a mere 0.19m.

Six months before that, she was also Singapore’s sole gold medal winner at the 2nd South-east Asian Junior Athletics Championships. She also set a new national age-group record with her 13.26m throw in the shot -put.

Singapore Amateur Athletics Association supremo Loh Lin Kok was even quoted as saying that he would be giving her an open ticket to train anywhere because of her talent.

So, yes, it would have been really nice if these two young ladies were given more significant coverage in today’s papers as a way of recognising their achievements and efforts.

It would have also gone a long way in helping to raise the stature of local sports, and the profiles of young local athletes who are going to be our flag-bearers on the international sporting stage (even if the stage is a lowish-level platform like the SEA Games).

So, my heartiest congratulations to Ting Wen and Lay Chi. I hope your achievements will help to spur you on to greater heights this year, especially at the SEA Games.

Shame about the lack of coverage though.

Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan

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Giving credit where credit is due

The story:

The Straits Times carried a report on 28 May 2008 on the possibiliy of exciting young sprinter Calvin Kang being offered a wildcard to compete in the 100m at this year’s Beijing Olympics. According to SAAA chieftain Loh Lin Kok, this and the other recent successes by young Singapore athletes at the South-east Asian Junior Championships are signs that his national body’s efforts to create a new generation of Singapore athletes are slowly coming to fruition. 

My thoughts:

Last year was definitely a watershed year for Calvin as he amazingly brought down his times from sub-11sec to 10.55sec to emerge as Singapore’s fastest junior.


His rate of improvement brings back memories of how former national sprinter UK Shyam, under the guidance of Pedro Acuna, brought down his 10.8sec-timing to a national record-breaking and SEA Games silver-medal winning 10.37sec in 2001.


What’s even more exciting is the fact that Calvin is still only 17 while Shyam was 25 when he clocked the new national record.


It means the exciting possibility that Calvin could end up not only breaking the men’s national record in the near future but also becoming the first Singapore sprinter to clock a sub-10.1secs.


So I do hope he gets the wild card ticket to Beijing. The exposure can only do him good – and hopefully set him up for a medal finish at the 2009 SEA Games in Laos.


On another note, I found SAAA president Loh Lin Kok’s quote at the end of the ST report ( “It shows that my association’s efforts to produce a new generation is (sic) coming to fruition.” ) rather interesting.


Truth be told, Singapore athletics will not be enjoying the growing successes that it has been achieving in the past few years without the advent of the Singapore Sports School.


The School’s Track and Field Academy was in many ways a god-send to the SAAA because it meant that the cream of Singapore’s young athletics talent would now housed in one centre and given the proper systematic training and educational support to help them to maximize their sporting potential.


Before that, the Singapore track and field scene was really low level.


Promising athletes were not getting the sort of training needed to help them raise their standards and every talented youngster was just focusing their sights on winning medals at the national schools championships.


Once these goals were reached, save for a hardcore few, the majority would then happily drop out of track to focus on their studies. And because it didn’t have the expertise nor any other supportive structures to convince these kids (and their parents) that it would be worth their while to carry on with training after leaving school, there was simply precious little that the SAAA could do to stem the talent drain.


So, in my humble opinion, the best thing that the SAAA ever did was to sign that Memorandum of  Understanding and Partnership Agreement with the Singapore Sports School in 2003 to recognise the latter’s Track and Field Academy its youth development system.


Then, apart from occasional meetings and discussions, the SAAA wisely chose to leave the Track And Field Academy’s own coaches to do their work.


The results speak for themselves.


Just check out the national age-group, junior and Open records here and you can see that most of the new records were broken from 2004 onwards (the year the Sports School started operations) and that the bulk of the record-breakers are from the Sports School.


So come on, let’s give credit where credit is really due, hey?  


Yours in Sport


Singapore Sports Fan

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Dawn of a new era in Singapore athletics?

The Story

The Straits Times recently carried this report on schoolboy long jumper Kenneth Wang Kan breaking a 26-year-old national record. Click here to read the original story.

My Opinion?

One of the best coaching hires ever by the Singapore Sports School would have to be its Georgian jumps coach, Valeri Obidko.

The results speak for themselves. In the space of just four years (he joined in 2004), he has created a growing platoon of promising jumpers, who have completely transformed the local athletics scene. Long-standing records have not only been broken (and isn’t it embarrassing that the records had been standing for 20 years or more before that?), they are also constantly being rewritten at least once a year.

And at the rate these young jumpers – Stefan Tseng, Mariam Shazana, Matthew Goh, Kenneth wang Kan etc – are improving, they are looking more and more like potential SEA and Asian Games medalists with each passing day.

That’s pretty impressive considering the fact that the Republic didn’t even have a track record in the jumps before Obidko’s arrival. 

So, sure, the man may have his critics. 

Some feel that he is a tad too arrogant for their liking. Others say that his trainees have a high injury rate because his training techniques and the intensity of his training sessions, that they are likely to burn out too quickly.

I say so what? Singapore athletics is on the cusp of an exciting new dawn: in the next two to four years, we are going to see medals coming in from a new source – the jumps. 

Think about it: when was the last time we ever won a SEA Games medal in the jumps? For that matter, when was the last time we ever won a SEA Games athletics medal using our own home-grown talents? 

Only two names come to mind: James Wong (who stopped competing after the 2005 SEA Games), and UK Shyam who won the 100m silver at the 2001 SEA Games. 

Think about it: When was the last time we saw three national records being broken in a single weekend (one at the SAAA’s All-Comers meet and two at the Pahang Open?). Four if you count Matthew Goh’s national junior record in the long jump the weekend before.

Think about what this means: No more having to rely on James to come out of retirement every two years to collect his nap-shot $10,000 bonus. No more relying on crap foreign talent, who clearly seem to have little love or respect for the Singapore passport. 

Once you’ve done that, think about what Valeri has achieved – and compare it with the little that has been achieved by foreign technical expertise in the same time frame.

And let’s be brutally frank here: Singapore is no Australia. Considering the kinds of societal pressures our athletes face, I’d rather they burn brightly on the international scene for a few years before retiring at, say, age 25 or 26 to focus on the other priorities in life. It’s the natural order of things. 

So here’s to Valeri and his young charges – keep up the great work, guys. And here’s hoping that you’ll bring back some medals from next year’s SEA Games.

Yours in sports,

Singapore Sports Fan

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