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.”
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