STUDENT BRAIN-DEAD AFTER TAEKWONDO SPARRING MATCH
By Liew Hanqing
July 09, 2009
A SPARRING match turned into a tragedy that left a teenager brain-dead.
Vincent Tan, 17, a taekwondo green belt who had taken up the sport about a year ago, had taken part in the match at Kampong Kembangan Community Club last Sunday.
He was sparring with an opponent, a more experienced 15-year-old who apparently had a higher-ranked brown belt.
Just minutes into the sparring, Vincent was believed to have been kicked on the neck.
Lianhe Wanbao reported that he adjusted his head guard, but soon fell unconscious.
A Singapore Civil Defence Force spokesman said Vincent was taken unconscious to Changi General Hospital (CGH) with neck injuries at about 9.40am.
Vincent's sister, who also took part in the competition, accompanied him to CGH in the ambulance.
A family member told The New Paper that he was pronounced brain-dead yesterday.
Vincent's uncle, who declined to be named, told The New Paper that the family has numerous questions about the incident.
He said: 'We want to know why a green belt holder was allowed to spar with a brown belt holder.'
The competition was jointly organised by the Kampong Ubi-Kembangan Citizens Consultative Committee and the Greenville Residents' Committee, and supported by the Singapore Taekwondo Gymnasium.
Vincent's uncle also wondered about the safety measures at the competition.
'Was he wearing the required safety equipment? We all want to know,' he said.
When contacted, Vincent's mother declined comment.
The second of three children is a student at Nanyang Polytechnic. He had been learning taekwondo for about a year from an instructor based in Serangoon.
His uncle said he was enthusiastic about the sport and was excited about competing.
'But now, we just want answers,' he said.
When contacted, the Singapore Taekwondo Gymnasium declined to comment on the incident.
Mr Lim Teong Chin, 61, general manager of the Singapore Taekwondo Federation (STF), said the Singapore Taekwondo Gymnasium had pulled out of the federation in 1993.
He said: 'The Singapore Taekwondo Gymnasium used to be an affiliate of STF but has been operating independently since it pulled out of the federation,' he told The New Paper.
'Since they operate on their own, they also have their own set of rules and regulations for competitions.'
He said that under STF's regulations, a green belt would never be allowed to spar with a brown belt under any circumstances.
'Only brown belts, poom belts (junior black belts) and black belts are allowed to spar.'
He explained that this was to ensure that two people with too great a disparity in skills do not spar with each other.
He said: 'The difference in experience between a green belt and a brown belt can be more than a year.
'Green belts are at the stage where they've only just learnt how to spar, while brown belts have already been sparring for some time.'
He likened this to a person 'just learning how to walk' competing against somebody who 'already knows how to run'.
He said: 'Green belts are just too inexperienced to compete at this stage.'
Even for the more experienced brown belts, regulations require competitiors to be in the same weight and belt category to spar.
While competing, contestants are also required to suit up in protective gear, which includes a head guard, mouth guard and gloves. http://tnp.sg/news/story/0,4136,207249,00.html?