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Old 5th November 2011, 11:15 AM   #1 (permalink)
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S'pore sports officials have war of words

http://news.asiaone.com/News/AsiaOne...03-308551.html

A war of words has broken out among two of Singapore's top sporting officials.

In one corner is Dr Tan Eng Liang, Singapore's chef de mission (CDM) to the upcoming South-east Asia (SEA) Games in Indonesia.

In the other is Dr Lee Bee Wah, president of the Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA). The reason for the spat?

Comments made by Dr Tan during a recent interview with this paper, which was published yesterday.

During the interview, which is part of The New Paper's countdown to the SEA Games starting Nov 11, TNP had asked Dr Tan what lessons he had learned from the very public spat during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, when he was also the CDM.

Then, there had been a public exchange of words between Dr Lee and various officials, including former team manager Antony Lee and Dr Tan, over paddler Gao Ning's exit in the men's singles competition.

On the same day of the incident, Dr Tan gave a press statement on the issue, with Dr Lee also saying that she would look into the matter.

She said in subsequent days that the futures of Mr Lee and head coach Liu Guodong would be reviewed because of this incident, which Dr Tan felt should have been done on the team's return.

In response to our question of what lessons he had learned from that spat, Dr Tan described the actions by the president of the national sports association (NSA) as an "unnecessary interference".

He said the CDM and the team officials were responsible for the Singapore contingent overseas, and whatever actions to be taken by the association should be done on their return.

"It's the NSA officials who do not know their stations and responsibilities and get carried away, as if they are the CDM", he had added.

When contacted yesterday, Dr Lee described Dr Tan's comments as sad, almost farcical and disappointing.

She said that the CDM had chosen to divide, not rally, Singaporeans ahead of the Games.

'Rather sad' In a statement, which is also posted on her Facebook page with a picture of the article, Dr Lee, who is also the Member of Parliament for the Nee Soon GRC, said: "It is rather sad that the chef de mission for the Singapore contingent to the SEA Games 2011, Dr Tan Eng Liang has decided to bring up an issue, which transpired in 2008, at this stage of the nation's preparations for a major event like the SEA Games."

When this reporter clarified that Dr Tan was speaking in response to TNP's questions, she countered that he had a choice in answering the questions posed.

She added that NSAs will face the long-term impact of any incidents at major Games, although the CDM is responsible for the contingent.

Saying that it's "almost farcical" to suggest that NSA presidents have no stature at the Games, she asked: "Is he then suggesting that all NSA presidents remain silent throughout and not step in to solve problems or issues which may arise?"

At the 2008 Olympics, national paddler Gao Ning broke down after he exited the last 16 of the men's singles competition without a coach by his side.

Following that, Dr Lee had told this newspaper at the Games that she would be reviewing the futures of then-team manager Lee and then-head coach Liu Guodong.

A day later, she announced that Mr Lee's services were no longer needed, eliciting a flurry of responses from the public and sports officials.

Mr Liu later left the association despite being offered a contract extension.

Earlier this year, the paddlers were left out of the initial list of the SEA Games-bound athletes by the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) selectors.

This, after the STTA decided to leave out seasoned campaigners such as Feng Tianwei, Wang Yuegu and Li Jiawei in favour of young paddlers such as Isabelle Li and Pang Xuejie.

Explaining the nomination, Dr Lee said then that the association was favouring youth development over medals.

In response, SNOC secretary general Chris Chan said the organisation's stand was that the best athletes, who meet the qualifying mark or are close to it, must go to the Games.

Dr Tan also reiterated that point when asked by TNP in the interview published yesterday.

SNOC later gave the paddlers the green light for the Games after STTA replaced Yu Mengyu with current world No. 4 Feng Tianwei, with Mr Chan calling the association's selection criteria "less than desirable".

Late last night, Dr Lee posted on her Facebook page: "I don't mean to pick up any quarrel.

Our opinions may be different but we should be working towards the same goal, like the coming SEA Games.

"I just want to reiterate that this is not the right time to open up the old wounds. I prefer to look forward and not backward."

Dr Tan could not be reached for a response last night.

Statement by Dr Lee Bee Wah, president of the Singapore Table Tennis Association:

It is rather sad that the chef de mission (CDM) for the Singapore contingent to the SEA Games 2011, Dr Tan Eng Liang, has decided to bring up an issue, which transpired in 2008, at this stage of the nation's preparations for a major event like the SEA Games.

Instead of rallying everyone behind our athletes, Singapore's CDM has chosen instead to raise issues which will divide Singaporeans, and which will undoubtedly open up old wounds.

As president of the Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA), I will always stand up for what is right and will let my thoughts and feelings be known.

The STTA, like all other National Sports Associations (NSAs), spends a lot of effort, time and resources to raise money and to groom all our athletes so that they are able to meet qualifying standards and are able to head to major Games.

With additional funding from the Singapore Sports Council, which comes from the taxpayers, the STTA is responsible for grooming our athletes and in ensuring that all athletes are able to meet the marks set by the Singapore National Olympic Council.

While the CDM may be responsible for the contingent during the major Games, it is important to note that it is the NSAs which will face the long-term impact if there is anything which happens during such Games.

It is almost farcical for Dr Tan to suggest that the NSA presidents have no stature at the Games. Is he then suggesting that all NSA presidents remain silent throughout and not step in to solve problems or issues which may arise?

As stated, it is rather disappointing that Singapore's CDM to the SEA Games 2011 has decided to bring up painful episodes at this stage, just days before Singapore heads to the major Games, when he should be using the opportunity to have Singaporeans stand behind their athletes ahead of the battle ahead.

The 2008 Breakdown

Aug 21, 2008 Singapore's top men's table tennis player Gao Ning loses 6-11, 12-14, 4-11, 7-11 to Croatia's Tan Ruiwu in the men's singles competition without a coach by his side and breaks down Aug 22 Dr Lee tells TNP she is reviewing the futures of team manager Antony Lee and head coach Liu Guodong

Oct 13 Mr Liu says he will not take up STTA's extension as the terms are 'insulting and insincere' Aug 29 Dr Lee apologises at a press conference 'for causing any grievances or any stress' over the incident

Aug 23 Dr Lee announces that MrLee's services are no longer required. Mr Liu's future will be decided by the association's coaching committee

Aug 26 Dr Lee says she will speak to Mr Liu on the renewal of his contract, despite an ongoing inquiry into the incident

Aug 25 Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, then-Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports, promises a full review of the saga

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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