Singapore Karate ready for new beginning

Singapore Karate ready for new beginning
David Thong, president of the Singapore Karate-do Federation. Photo: Ernest Chua
National body wants to move on from years of infighting and win a medal at KL SEA Games
Published: 4:00 AM, January 12, 2017
Updated: 6:44 AM, January 12, 2017

SINGAPORE — Its national karatekas missed out on the chance to compete and win honours on home soil after the sport was given the chop from the 2015 SEA Games.

The Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) had cited infighting among the local karate fraternity, as well as the lack of support for the Singapore Karate-do Federation (SKF), as reasons for the sport’s exclusion.

It had also listed other problems, which included the SKF’s inability to submit paperwork to Sport Singapore for funding, and the lack of open selection trials for the national squad.

But the new year is an opportunity for a fresh start for the sport, as the SKF looks to move on from the debacle that cost them a coveted spot in the region’s biggest multi-sports event.

With karate back in the 2017 SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur, the SKF is targeting a medal from the 16 events on offer in Malaysia. The Republic’s karatekas last won a medal — a bronze in the men’s kumite 55kg and below — at the 2011 SEA Games in Indonesia.

“As a NSA, we were disappointed to miss out on the SEA Games,” SKF president David Thong said.

“But sometimes you suffer setbacks, and you just have to work towards doing better. The athletes trained so hard, and to be sidelined for that felt unfair.

“But instead of licking our wounds, we went to the SNOC and Sport Singapore to see how we can do better. We definitely want to work on a comeback at the SEA Games after our absence.”

The SKF will conduct an open selection trial on Saturday at the Tanglin Trust School to pick athletes for its national squad in the build-up to the SEA Games in August. An Iranian coach will also be hired as a consultant to the national side.

According to SKF, 38 athletes have signed up for the trials, including five from its breakaway faction, the Karate-Do Union of Singapore (KUS).

In 2011, the SKF expelled seven karate clubs for defamation, and forming the KUS while they were still under the SKF. A dialogue session organised by the SKF last June to clear the air with the KUS did not go as planned, as the KUS chose to skip the event.

Added Thong: “After the selection, we will invite the athletes and their parents to a no-holds-barred Q&A session before they sign the Athletes’ agreement. They are required to attend the training session every Saturday, meet the training and competition requirements, and compete in yardstick competitions. We will only nominate those who have the potential to win a bronze medal at the Games.”

Karate’s comeback year will also see the SKF working towards achieving Institutions of a Public Character (IPC) status, which will allow it to issue tax deductible receipts to its donors. While becoming an IPC will see the SKF held to a higher standard of regulatory compliance and governance, it will also help attract more donations.

The SKF also received a financial boost this month, with dairy company Greenfields contributing a cash sponsorship of S$50,000 to help in the development of the sport here.

“We are convinced that SKF can help to develop and promote the sport and bring it to greater heights,” said Yong Kwek Jin, Singapore country head of sales and marketing for Greenfields. “We are proud to be behind this team whose involvement in community activities exhibited their willingness to work towards national objectives to encourage the population to live better through sports.”

The money will go towards the organisation of a major national competition, intensive training programmes and overseas stints for the national team. Added Thong: “We are looking for rebirth from the challenges that we face. We are working with the SNOC and Sport Singapore on matters such as selection policy and our constitution.

“The S$50,000 sponsorship is our first endorsement, and once we are an IPC, I think we can do even better and work towards (financial) self-reliance.”