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'Get your act together': Singapore athletics criticised after poor SEA Games

NEW CLARK CITY, Philippines — The lack of "stable governance" within the athletics fraternity has cost its athletes, said Singapore Sports Institute’s (SSI) head of high performance and athlete life Richard Gordon, following the sport’s poor outing at the 30th SEA Games.

Singapore Sports Institute’s head of high performance and athlete life Richard Gordon.

Singapore Sports Institute’s head of high performance and athlete life Richard Gordon.

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NEW CLARK CITY, Philippines — The lack of "stable governance" within the athletics fraternity has cost its athletes, said Singapore Sports Institute’s (SSI) head of high performance and athlete life Richard Gordon, following the sport’s poor outing at the 30th SEA Games.

“We’ve seen a decline in results over the past three SEA Games. We’ve done a lot of work behind the scenes in terms of trying to help (them) to stabilise,” said Mr Gordon at a wrap-up press conference on Wednesday (Dec 11).

“But they seem to have a propensity for infighting within the fraternity... what I am going to say is that you need to get your act together.”

Singapore’s athletics contingent did not win a gold or silver at this year's Games. It bagged three bronze medals — two courtesy of Shanti Pereira in the 100m and 200m finals and one from Nur Izlyn Zaini in the 100m hurdles.

Shanti Pereira (second from right) at the SEA Games 2019 athletics heats on Dec 7. Photo: SNOC

In the 2017 edition of the Games, the team won two gold medals — one from marathoner Soh Rui Yong and another from high jumper Michelle Sng.

Soh’s nomination to compete in this edition of the Games was rejected by the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC), while Sng finished fifth this year.

“As a fraternity, you need to start working together, you need to start providing stable governance," said Mr Gordon.

“Because you are providing nothing more than a distraction, which is taking your time, effort and energies away from what you should be doing, which is helping to support the athletes’ development and performances.”

In contrast, he said that there are lessons to be learnt from swimming, which tied its best showing at the Games with 23 gold medals.

In addition to its planned and very systematic approach, the sport has been very stable in terms of governance, he said.

“They are very stable in terms of their governance and I’d compare and constraint that with several other sports over this past two — maybe one — year(s), where we’ve noted that (for) a number of NSAs (National Sports Associations), there’s been some turmoil within the NSA. 

“This is a distraction. It’s a distraction away from the athletes, away from their performances and their preparation for these important Games. This is not fair for the athletes.”

This year's SEA Games also saw promising performances from “emerging” sports such as softball, he noted.

The men’s softball team bounced back from a 8-0 loss to the Philippines earlier in the tournament to beat the overwhelming favourites twice to win gold. 

“I think that’s a tremendous story and I think (there are) many lessons that could be learnt from some of the emerging sports like softball, in relation to some of the traditional sports,“ said Mr Gordon.

“But many of the traditional sports, where perhaps they have lost some innovation, perhaps they've lost a little bit of desire, are being challenged by some of the emerging new sports,” he added.

“That’s an emerging narrative that we’re seeing at this SEA Games and is something that we’ll keep a very close watch on over the next few years.”

Mr Gordon also pointed out five Singapore athletes and one team which displayed “extraordinary and exemplary behaviour and performances”. 

They were Amanda Lim, Quah Zheng Wen, Darren Chua, Ryan Lo, Peter Gilchrist and the men’s softball team.

“I would highlight those six athletes and team — one, because I think they are incredibly professional; two, I think they are incredible hardworking; and three, they are very, very humble in what they do,” he said.

“I think they are tremendous role models for Singapore and for future generations of Singapore athletes.” CNA

For more stories like this, visit cna.asia

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SEA Games 2019 Singapore Athletics Richard Gordon Sports

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