Tag Archives: Zachary Devaraj

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.

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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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Four new records set at National Schools Track and Field Championships, and a new jumping star in the making emerges

I am sure that junior hurdling talent Goh Wei Ning must be wondering what she must do to clock a sub-15sec timing in the 100m hurdles.

This morning,  in the 100m hurdles heats,  the 15-year-old Singapore Sports School student broke the B Girls record of 15.18sec set by Inez Leong last year. However, she missed out on a sub-15sec timing for the third time this year.

How close was she this time? Really close.

She breasted the tape at 15sec flat.

A part of me feels a little sorry for this determined and spirited young lady. But another part of me cannot help marvelling at the steady progress she has been making in the past four months.

In February, she clocked 15.13sec to set a new national U-17 mark. Then, in March, she clocked 15.01sec at the Singapore Athletic Association’s 3rd All-Comers meet. And now this.

If you ignore that earnest wish to clock a sub-15sec timing, it means that she has achieved the incredible feat of breaking a national U-17 mark thrice in three months. Now, how’s that for sheer talent and consistency.

Wei Ning will be giving it another go in her final tomorrow. I just hope she doesn’t stress herself out and give herself too much undue pressure.

Relax, my dear girl, for at the rate you’re going, it’s just a matter of time before it  eventually comes. Don’t be too hard on yourself.

Today’s National Schools Championships also saw three other records being broken.

Katong Convent’s Jannah Wong, another up-and-coming junior hurdler, emerged as a possible future challenger to Wei Ning when she cracked the C Girls 80m hudles mark. She clocked 12.44sec in her heat to erase the prevailing mark of 12,52sec, which, you guessed it, was set by Wei Ning in 2008.

She too has a chance to lower that time further in tomorrow’s final. After all, she did clock 12.37sec at the recent Singapore Juniors. Fantastic stuff.

The C Girls triple jump also unveiled a new star in the making in the form of Sakinah Muslimah.

The Singapore Sports School student leapt 11.32m to smash the existing record of  11.11m set by Nurul Jannah in 2006. That’s a huge difference of 21cm.

Interestingly, current national open record holder Mariam Shazana (11.66m) was jumping around 11.36m when she was 14, the same age as Sakinah now.

But according to national jumps coach Valeri Obidko, Sakinah has the ability to clear between 11.5 to 11.7m NOW.

Mariam set her latest record just last year when she was 18. That Sakinah, at 14, is capable of clearing 11.5m to 11.7m now, means that she is definitely one to keep a close watch on from now on.

The fourth record of the day went to Zachary Devaraj who set a new mark in the B Boys 800m. The Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) student clocked 1min 57.34sec to break 14-year-old mark of 1:58.38.

My heartiest congratulations to all of today’s record-breakers. Keep up the great work.

Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan

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