By Michael Y.P. Ang
What happened to all that chatter about the Government’s wish to have Singaporean representation at the Winter Olympic Games? Are the Republic’s winter dreams on track or on ice?
The Government’s winter wish was revealed by Teo Ser Luck (above) four years ago while the Winter Olympiad was taking place in Vancouver, Canada. Ser Luck was then the Senior Parliamentary Secretary at the now-defunct Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports.
The Singapore Sports Council (SSC) had much to say then, even claiming that “it may be possible to have Singapore represented at the 2014 Winter Olympics”. So why are the authorities now so quiet about their winter quest?
The SSC said in 2010 that it was “in the initial stages of looking into the feasibility of supporting athletes to qualify for the Winter Olympics” and that “given the dynamics of Asian body structure, some of the plausible winter sports in which our athletes would be suitable for include speed skating and snowboarding.”
However, despite repeated attempts by The Independent to obtain a progress update, the SSC has chosen to remain silent, without even a response to indicate it had no comment.
Before sceptics jump to the conclusion that the Government’s Winter Olympic plans are merely wishful thinking, other possible explanations should be considered.
Perhaps the SSC’s media relations officers are preoccupied with relating to the mainstream media. Or maybe the SSC, even after four long years, still needs more time to work out its plans. Or could there be a red carpet secretly in the works, to welcome foreign-born winter athletes holding brand-new pink ICs?
Winter sporting landscape not completely bleak
Whatever the case may be, Singapore’s winter sporting landscape is not totally bleak. Lucas Ng provided a spark in 2011, becoming the first Singaporean to compete at a winter games, skating against the continent’s fastest in Short Track Speed Skating at the Asian Winter Games in Kazakhstan.
However, the odds of 25-year-old Lucas reaching a future Olympiad are not in his favour, especially considering the Olympic odyssey of speed-skater Barton Lui. The 20-year-old, currently competing at the Sochi Games, is the first Hong Kong man to qualify for the Winter Olympics.
Lui first engaged in the sport when he was only 10, and moved to Vancouver in his early teens in order to obtain world-class coaching expertise, before putting his studies on hold at age 16 to relocate to China to train full-time.
Lucas, on the other hand, picked up the sport at the ripe old age of 22. However, even if Lucas fails to reach the Olympics in the future, his 2011 trailblazing effort in Kazakhstan and ongoing participation in international competition, hopefully, will inspire young speed skaters to seek Olympic excellence.
Watch out for curling
Even without Singaporean Olympians in speed skating, figure skating, and snowboarding, all is not lost. The sport of curling appears to be shining a ray hope on Singapore’s winter quest.
Remember the Football Association of Singapore’s “GOAL 2010” dream of the Lions qualifying for the 2010 World Cup Finals, or the Singapore Ice Hockey Association’s claim in 2010 that Singapore could qualify for future Olympics?
Unlike football or ice hockey, curling falls within the category of ‘realistic’. The Singapore Curling Academy (SCA) seeks to popularise its sport nationwide, partly by promoting curling through the SSC’s upcoming five Super Sports Clubs.
Whether the SSC will allow the SCA to work at its super clubs remains to be seen, but one thing is certain. The latter’s optimism for developing Singaporean curlers to compete in the 2017 qualifiers for the next Winter Olympics makes much sense.
SCA’s head of business development, Dalon Goh, said: “Singapore has done well in bowling and recently, in kayaking and archery during the SEA Games. These sports depend on an individual player’s technical skill in delivery, strategy, and will power during competition. Curling is similar. There is no disadvantage for athletes with a smaller build.”
The SCA has already secured commitments from two overseas curling clubs to provide professional coaching expertise. The foreign clubs will either have Singaporean curlers at their location for training or send coaches to Singapore to conduct a training camp.
While it is too early to talk about qualifying for Olympic curling, developing talented curlers to participate in Olympic qualifiers will be a crucial first step as Singapore presses on with its Winter Olympic quest.