Tag Archives: Wan Lay Chi

Shahrir’s omission from the YOG squad could well have been prevented

The report:

A reader, Just Another Critic, has asked about my thoughts about schoolboy sprinter’s omission from the Youth Olympic Games. He was referring to this report which appeared in yesterday’s edition of TODAY:

Shahrir out of Youth Olympics  (TODAY, 4 May 2010)

It’s no-go for Singapore’s fastest schoolboy after SAA turn down appeal

By Low Lin Fhoong

SINGAPORE – Last July, Shahrir Mohd Anuar matched strides with the continent’s best teenagers, finishing third in the inaugural Asian Youth Games 100m Boys’ final, clocking 11.13sec.

The race was won by Japanese tearaway Masaki Nashimoto in 10.82.

Last month, the Raffles Institution (Junior College) pupil took gold in the ‘A’ Boys 100m at the National Inter-School Track and Field Championships. Shahrir clocked 10.90 to become Singapore’s fastest schoolboy.

On those two performances alone, he would have been a shoo-in for the blue riband race at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games, which will be held here from Aug 14 to 26.

But the Singapore Athletic Association (SAA) left the 17-year-old out of their provisional squad of eight boys and eight girls named in March because his average time (11.29) for four build-up races earlier in the year was just off the pace set by Donovan Chan (11.16).

It means Shahrir, who raised some excitement among local fans with his performance at the Asian Youth Games last year, will miss the Youth Olympics.

“It’s a big waste for me because we are the hosts, and running in front of a home crowd means a lot to me … But I have to respect their decision,” said a disappointed Shahrir.

Shahrir, who had taken time off to prepare for his year-end “O” Level exams, was also coming off an injury and was not anywhere near peak form for the four races.

He had appealed to the SAA to be included in their Youth Olympic provisional squad, who will compete in the Asian Area Qualification event on May 22 and 23 at Bishan Stadium.

But it was rejected last week.

With each country allowed to enter a maximum of two athletes for the individual events at the Asian qualifier, Shahrir was hoping to run with Donovan in the 100m, which will serve as the final trial for the Youth Olympics.

The SAA will select five boys and five girls after the Asian qualifier for the Youth Olympics, which will see around 3,600 athletes aged between 14 to 18 years competing in the 26 Olympic sports.

The SAA’s decision to omit Shahrir from the Asian meet has puzzled his father, Mohd Anuar Yusop.

“I don’t understand how it works … I do not want to take away Donovan’s position as he was rightly selected, but if we can enter two athletes for each event at the Asian qualifier, why not,” he told MediaCorp.

“It’s not like we’re flying the athletes to Indonesia or Thailand. The SAA should allow for flexibility. They’re being too rigid with the rules.”

A philosophical Shahrir is now looking ahead to the Asean Schools Championships, South-east Asia Junior Championships (both in June) and Asian Junior Championships (July).

“I’ll just continue running and trying for a better timing and more consistency this year, and I’m targeting 10.70sec,” he said.

********

My thoughts:

Frankly, I can see how Shahrir’s appeal to be included in the YOG provisional squad never stood a ghost of a chance of succeeding.

If you go by the Singapore Athletic Association’s criteria for consideration for selection, they are firmly within their rights not to grant Shahrir’s appeal (click here for the SAA’s selection criteria for the YOG).

But that doesn’t mean that the SAA got it right in the first place.

For starters, I don’t see the logic behind the choice of the dates that were set for the period of qualification (from 16 Jan 2010 to 14 March 2010) because I don’t understand how the SAA could  have not considered including the 51st National Schools Track and Field Championships, which was held in April,  as part of the selection criteria.

Under the qualifying criteria for the YOG, athletes had to take part in the SAA’s All-Comers meets in January and February this year, as well as the National Junior Championships in March.

Their results are then averaged and benchmarked against the 10th-placed performances at the last three IAAF World Youth Championships, which are for athletes 17 years or younger.

But here’s my question: why did the SAA take the decision to stop at the National Junior Championships which were held in March, at a time when most of our top juniors are still not at their peaks?

If other countries, for example Ireland, can give their athletes a longer period for qualification, up to 10 May, then why couldn’t the SAA have done the same?

After all, isn’t it the national body’s mission to look for the best Singapore athletes who can end up holding their heads high when they compete at the Youth Olympics despite the gulf in standards with the track and field powerhouses of the world?

If that is the case, then why did the SAA leave out the National Schools Championships as one of the must-compete meets in their selection criteria?

Why am I harping so much on the National Schools Championships? Simple – aren’t all the athletes who are vying for places in the YOG also students?

And when you are a student athlete,  what is the meet that will matter most to you?It has to be the National Schools Track and Field Championships.

In Singapore, that is the mother of all track and field competitions for junior athletes, not the All-Comers meets or the National Juniors.

The National Schools Championships is the one event that sees the student athlete out there driven by another equally – or perhaps even more powerful motivation than from personal glory — bringing honour to your school.

And that is a pretty powerful force, I can assure you.

All athletes are primed to be at their peak for the annual meet because there is so much at stake – for the athlete, coach and of course, the school.

Isn’t it any wonder then that so many new championship and schools national records are set every year at the National Schools Championships?

In the past five years, an average of 16-18 championship records were set. This year was no different: according to www.schoolsports.sg, 16 Championship records and six  Schools National records were set.

Not only were some of the YOG provisional squad members in record-breaking form, such as Goh Wei Ning (100m hurdles), Zachary Devaraj (800m and 1,500m) and Sean Toh (110m hurdles), so too was discus thrower Chan Zhi Xuan  who had, ironically, been axed from the YOG squad prior to the National Schools Championships.

The Cedar Girls School student ended up setting a stunning new Schools National record of 37.94m at the meet, breaking Wan Lay Chi’s mark of 37.25m set in 2004.

And sprinter Shahrir Anuar clocked 10.90sec and 10.95sec in the 100m, the best times set by any schoolboy this season so far.

Now, what does that tell you about the importance of the National Schools Championships to our student athletes?

If the SAA had waited until after the National Schools Championships to decide on its YOG squad for the Asian Area Qualifiers, it could have given itself a wider range of athletes to choose from.

And disputes like that of the controversial selection of Donovan Tan over Shahrir – Singapore’s bronze-medal winner at last year’s Asian Youth Games, mind you — for the 100m  could have been avoided.

Even the axing of Zhi Xuan could have possibly been prevented.

Finally, going back to Shahrir’s case, it really does feel as though the young man has been dealt a bad hand through no fault of his own.

He was injured in November, had to spend a whole month recuperating before resuming training in late December.

Yet even with the late start, he still managed to clock those impressive sub-11sec times. Tells you about the boy’s talent, doesn’t it?

Really, this fiasco could have been prevented if the window for qualifying had been lengthened.

At the end of the day, all this  just tells me just how out of touch the SAA is with the ground on the meets that matter most to students and coaches.

Clearly, the national body has been operating from an ivory tower.

And clearly, this is why it is even more crucial now that the winds of change must blow through its corridors come June.

Yet, sadly, even that would be too late for talented juniors like Shahrir and Zhi Xuan.

Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan

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Shanti, Eugenia, Zachary and Zhi Xuan shine brightest on last day of National Schools C’ships

Shanti Pereira, Eugenia Tan and Zachary Devaraj produced stunning record-breaking performances today to provide a fitting end to an exciting National Schools Track and Field Championships.

Singapore Sports School sprinters Shanti and Eugenia, who are coached by Pedro Acuna,  had a day to remember as they both cracked the Girls C Division 100m record and played a role in helping their school to set a new 4x100m relay mark.

However, it will be Shanti’s name in the record books as the new holder of the 100m mark.

The 14-year-old blazed the track at the Choa Chu Kang Stadium to clock 12.75sec in the 100m final, slicing 0.08sec off the prevailing record of 12.83sec. Schoolmate Eugenia also went under the record as she clocked 12.81sec to finish second.

Both Shanti and Eugenia were also part of the 4x100m relay team that set a new record of 49.67sec to smash the 50.53sec record. Incidentally, that record was also set by the Sports School back in 2004.

The duo then grabbed their second relay gold medal when they starred in the 4x400m relay. Although they did their best, the quartet’s time of 4min 13.31sec was just off the record of 4:12.84, also set by the Sports School in 2004.

Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) distance runner Zachary Devaraj broke an 11-year-old B Boys record as he stormed home in 4:12.61sec, more than a second faster than the 4:14.13 that Kannan Poobalan set in 1999 in Victoria School’s colours.

The 16-year-old collected his second distance record at the Championships today after slaying the 14-year-old 800m record  of 1:58.38 last Thursday with his effort of 1:57.34.

The ACS (I) 4x100m quartet was also in magnificent record-breaking form today. They clocked 42.58sec to break the 11-year-old mark of 43.14sec which was also set by the school in 1999.

The most significant new record, in my humble opinion, was set by Cedar Girls’ Chan Zhi Xuan. She hurled her discus to a distance of 37.94m in the B Girls final to crack Wan Lay Chi’s meet and Schools National record of 37.25m.

Stunning stuff.

As Lay Chi has gone on to represent Singapore at the SEA Games, it means that Zhi Xuan definitely has the talent and potential to do the same eventually if she decides to continue in the discipline. I do hope she will.

Can you imagine what a wonderful sight it would be to see two local-born female throwers in action for us at the SEA Games?

As it is, it was a proud moment for me as a long-time observer of Singapore athletics to see fresh young talents Matthew Goh and Stefan Tseng jumping at last year’s SEA Games. 

Back to the National Schools Championships. It seems that a totalof 18 championship records and six schools national records were set at this year’s meet (I say ‘it seems’ because I counted 18 while the website says 16. I wonder what’s causing the discrepancy.)

My  heartiest congratulations to all the record-breakers. May this spur you on to greater heights. Hopefully, we will get to see some of you representing Singapore at the SEA Games one day.

Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan

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The SAA — Two-faced, divided within its own ranks, or just confused and talking bollocks?

The report #1:

These two reports, in response to Singapore Athletic Assocation chief executive officer Steven Yeo’s assessmentof the standard of youth athletics in Singapore,  were published in TODAY over the past week.

The first, a commentary by sports editor Leonard Thomas, came out on Saturday (27 March), while the second appeared in today’s edition. Here is Leonard’s commentary:

A programme in tatters

(TODAY, 27 March 2010)

Steven Yeo’s assessment of young athletes a wake-up call for SAA’s technical team

By Leonard Thomas

After nine months in the job Singapore Athletic Association (SAA) chief executive officer Steven Yeo’s view, that track and field in the country will be in the doldrums for some years to come, is depressing.

If his dire forecast was meant to be a warning for technical director C Veeramani and his team of coaches at the association, then I hope they get the message.

Yeo issued the damning indictment on the state of track and field at junior level in an interview with The Straits Times last week.

The 16 athletes shortlisted for the Youth Olympic Games are well short of the benchmarks set by the SAA, and he bemoaned the lack of talent coming through the ranks.

Yeo predicted Singapore will struggle to make an impact in athletics at the SEA Games and Asian Games based on the strength of the current generation of young sprinters, jumpers and throwers.

It brings into sharp focus the role SAA’s technical department has been playing in developing young track and field talent in Singapore.

Veeramani and his team are responsible for shaping a programme to first, ensure mass participation, then identify potential and finally, give the handpicked youngsters every chance possible to eventually get to the top.

It is not working out.

Ironically, less than two years ago, SAA chief Loh Lin Kok predicted a bright future for the sport.

In an interview with Today in November 2008, he claimed the SAA had embarked on a programme to develop local talent, both for athletes and coaches.

The programme actually started in 2005, according to Loh, and at the time he said the results were already beginning to show.

Sixteen months on, the programme has collapsed, if Yeo’s assessment is correct.

The programme could have been affected, as SAA’s funding from the Singapore Sports Council (SSC) has been frozen for FY2009/10.

But SSC have always maintained that athletes with talent will not suffer and they would help them individually.

If the SAA had identified the athletes being groomed as worthy of financial support, and recommended them to the SSC, they should still be on the radar.

Maybe Yeo’s withering comments on the production line of track and field was timed to send a wake-up call to the talent scouts in his association.

Singapore have talented youngsters in track and field.

Discus thrower Alan Teh has promise. The 17-year-old from Hwa Chong Institution College bettered his personal best of 47 metres (discus, 1.5kg) with a heave of 49.96m to win gold at the inaugural Asean Schools Games last July in Supanburi, Thailand.

He has been undefeated at schools’ level since 2006, when he set the championship record of 47.23m in the ‘C’ Division.

Sprinters Shanti Pereira and Eugenia Tan, both 13 and from the Singapore Sports School, did well enough at the Wala Championships last weekend in Perth to suggest they could go on to greater things.

Shanti clinched the bronze in the under-14 200m with a time of 25.84sec, going under her own national under-15 record of 26.03s set last August.

Eugenia finished fourth in the 100m for under-14, clocking a new personal best of 12.23s. The time is faster than the national under-15 (12.74s), under-17 (12.39s) and junior (12.26s) records.

Shahrir Mohd Anuar, 17, from Raffles Institution College, clocked 10.90s at last year’s Inter-School Track-and-Field Championships, a new record in the boys’ ‘B’ Division.

I am sure all of them will disagree with Yeo.

Indeed, track and field is one of the most popular sports at schools’ level, there are always at least a couple of raw gems in every cohort.

The SAA are set for a leadership battle, with Tang Weng Fei taking on Loh in elections that must be held by June.

Whoever comes out on top, it is crucial he installs a top-class youth development programme quickly.

 **********

My thoughts:

Bravo, Leonard Thomas.

I thought Leonard’s piece was a brilliant way of turning Yeo’s assesment into an indictment of the SAA’s own technical (in)abilities and its youth development programme (or apparent lack of one).

Yeo said youth standards are appalling, that it would take a generation before Singapore can produce a batch of athletes able to compete at  SEA or Asian Games level.

Leonard says very astutely: “Oh dear, Steven’s assessment shows that the SAA technical department, tasked in 2005 to come out with a programme to ensure mass participation and subsequently, the identification of promising talent, has failed in its duties.”

And he cleverly points out that Yeo’s comments are also a contradiction of SAA president Loh Lin Kok’s declaration in 2008 that the SAA’s youh development programme is starting to bear fruit.

Which begs the question: who is telling the truth here? Yeo or Loh?

Here’s the other point to ponder: How can the SAA move forward if the president and the chief executive officer are failing to agree on whether the association’s own youth development programme is working or not.

Someone has clearly put his foot in his mouth in this instance. I am having a hard time deciding who it is. 

The report #2

The second report is essentially a response by the track and field community to Yeo’s comments.

And the consensus is this: Yeo is talking bollocks. Here’s the report:

No shortage of talent

(TODAY, 31 March 2010)

Track and field fraternity confused as SAA sendout mixed signals

By Low Lin Fhoong

SINGAPORE – Less than two weeks ago, Singapore Athletic Association (SAA) chief executive officer Steven Yeo sounded an ominous warning for the sport, when he said the poor standard of track and field at youth level meant Singapore would probably do little at the SEA Games and Asian Games for at least one generation.

Yesterday, various media reports claimed the association was targeting 13 medals at the 2013 SEA Games.

The SAA would be introducing coaching clinics, more local events, and would set up two Centres of Excellences in Temasek Polytechnic and Gombak Stadium, in a bid to achieve the target.

Nine athletes – including sprinters Ng Chin Hui, 16, and Shahrir Mohd Anuar, 17, and 21-year-old thrower Wan Lay Chi – were identified as potential medallists in 2013.

Many in the fraternity were taken aback by the latest development.

“First they shoot themselves in the foot, because they are responsible for nurturing talent … now, they say they can produce 13 medals and sprinters like Shahrir are not even in their Youth Olympics list,” said an industry insider.

“These new plans … It’s just old wine in a new bottle,” added the source.

Yeo, who joined the SAA in mid-2009, had lamented the lack of talent coming through the ranks, after revealing that the Youth Olympic Games qualifying times and distances posted by the 16-member shortlisted squad were well below the marks set by the SAA.

Junior athletes were required to compete in the All-Comers Meet in January and February, and the National Junior Championships, with the average performances benchmarked against the 10th-placed results from the last three IAAF World Youth Championships.

Veteran thrower and nine-time SEA Games gold medallist James Wong, Singapore’s chef-de-mission for the inaugural Youth Olympics, said: “Of course it’s a surprise to hear the news … we have some raw diamonds who are untapped, and we just need good craftsmen to polish them, but I don’t think we have that.”

At last year’s SEA Games in Vientiane, Laos, Singapore’s athletes won just three medals – gold in women’s shot put and men’s discus, silver in men’s 4x100m relay – from 45 events.

SAA chief Loh Lin Kok and his management team were heavily criticised for the performance.

Yeo’s comments about the lack of talent among the young athletes was rebuffed by local developmental coaches.

“We have many talented youngsters, just go down to the schools and look … we have a 13-year-old boy doing 39-plus seconds in the 300m,” said veteran coach Loh Chan Pew, who guided the national women’s 4x100m relay team to a new national mark in 2007.

Added schools coach Tan Wei Leong: “I don’t think it’s fair to say there’s no talent. It’s not only the Sports School that’s producing athletes, but all the schools.

“We always have youth athletes doing well at regional events like the Asean Schools Championships, and even Hwa Chong Institution throwers like Scott Wong and Alan Teh are doing well …

“The problem is that the mismanagement in the administration has caused athletes to lose interest.”

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My thoughts:

Firstly, I am glad that TODAY has given the track and field community the opportunity and platform to respond to Yeo’s comments.

And secondly, I am glad that increasingly, they are not holding back on their criticism and are no longer afraid of any repurcussions to their athletes,or to themselves, if they should speak up. 

Secondly,  I completely agree with the views of the community. 

I’ve been following the youth athletics scene for a long time, way before May 2008, which was when I first started this blog. And I can safely say that the scene has never looked brighter.

We have in our midst a small but growing army of young boys and girls who have the ability to become future regional champions in athletics.

You want some names? Well then, let me invite you to click on any name you see in my tag cloud, and chances are, you will find loads of information about their achievements at local, national and even international level.

The SAA should count itself fortunate to have so many budding talents, despite their poor efforts at youth development, and at properly grooming and devleoping these talents.

In fact,I think it augurs well for track and field in Singapore that these talents have managed to sprout in spite of the SAA.

And this is all thanks not just to the Singapore Sports School but also to the dedicated, passionate and hardworking coaches out there, slaving long hours in the sun to groom their charges.

So shame on you, SAA, for not knowing what you are talking about.

And double the shame on you trying to pass off the development of the youth athletes as something you are undertaking when it is clear that they have come up inspite of your ineptitude and lack of action for a long time.

When you want to talk the talk about unity in the track and field community, all working together to raise the standards of athletics in Singapore, please, walk the talk yourselves first.

Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan 

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