By: 永久浪客/Forever Vagabond
It was reported by TODAY last week that some of the PRC-born women players want to get out from the Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA).
Quoting from sources, TODAY reported that some members of the women’s team – including star players Feng Tianwei and Yu Mengyu – are unhappy with their current set-up in STTA. They want to be managed independently from STTA.
The PRC players have been in conflict with STTA, starting last Oct when Yu was involved in an on-court spat with then-head coach Jing Junhong. Feng and Yu had wanted a change of coach from Jing to then-men’s team head coach Yang Chuanning.
In the end, Jing was given a verbal reprimand while Yu was issued a warning letter in regard to the on-court spat. Jing was eventually redeployed to another role in youth development but Yang was fired. No reasons were given as to why Yang was axed.
The performance of the women’s table tennis team has been going downhill in the last 8 years. It achieved a silver in 2008 Beijing Olympics but garnered only bronze in 2012 London Olympics. At the recent 2016 Rio Olympics, the women’s team came back empty-handed.
In regard to the current spat, TODAY reported that the women’s table tennis team could decide to take matters into their own hands.
“A possible alternative could be for Sport Singapore (SportSG) or the Singapore Sports Institute (SSI) (instead of STTA) to step in and manage the paddlers,” TODAY said.
When approached, STTA president and former PAP MP Ellen Lee tried to deflect the question from TODAY. Ellen Lee said, “At the moment, we are undergoing a post-mortem but it has not been completed as some of the players are on holiday.”
“This post-mortem will be as objective as possible as this is about sports in Singapore, and the future of sports here. If there is any unhappiness, it will have to be addressed during the post-mortem,” she added. She took over from MP Lee Bee Wah as the new president of STTA not too long ago.
Ng Ser Miang supportive of outside organizations stepping in
Singapore’s IOC member Ng Ser Miang appears to be supportive of letting organizations outside of STTA to step in and manage the table tennis players.
“Moving forward, there must be a more efficient way to resolve disputes. Over the next few months, there should be an open discussion on how to best manage the athletes,” he said.
He added that the SSI and SNOC could play a more active role in managing the athletes.
“These are our national athletes who should be looked after in a collective effort…by the NSA and now with the investment by the Ministry (Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth) in the SSI, they should have a big role, along with the experience and technical expertise of the SNOC.”
NS for Clarence Chew but no NS for Chen Feng
Meanwhile, former PRC-born table tennis player Li Jiawei has retired and gone back to live in her first home in Beijing. She has decided to start her family in China instead of Singapore.
In the men’s national team, Singapore has players like PRC-born Chen Feng and native-born Clarence Chew.
Chen Feng, 22, came from China at the age of 16. He moved to Singapore in 2010 under Singapore’s Foreign Sports Talent Scheme (FST) and one year later in 2011, he became a new citizen of Singapore (https://theindependent.sg.sg/ns-f
This year, Chen got his wish to play at the Rio Olympics. But his first Olympics lasted just 40 minutes or so, after he lost in his opening match in the table tennis singles. He was beaten by a score of 4-1 by a Finnish player. Defending his loss, he said, “My nerves affected my technique and ability to react quickly.”
Under the controversial Foreign Sports Talent Scheme, foreigners are given Singapore citizenship so as to represent Singapore to play in games internationally. Foreign male players turned Singaporeans under the scheme do not need to serve NS.
However, native-born male Singaporean athletes like table tennis player Clarence Chew must serve. This would put the native born players at a disadvantage compared to the foreign-born ones since their athletic skill is bound to diminish during his 2 years of NS.
But Sport Singapore CEO Lim Teck Yin continues to defend the scheme.
“The foreign talent scheme is more pronounced in certain sports, for netball you have one player, for table tennis there are more,” said Lim, who stressed that retired national table tennis player Wang Yuegu is an example of a FST athlete who has assimilated well into Singapore society. But he did not mention Li Jiawei who has chosen to go back to Beijing after her retirement.
“This is also reflective of the state of sports in the world, if you look at the world championships and Olympics, there are a lot of table tennis players born in China,” Lim added, trying to defend STTA which has imported many China-born players into the association.
In other words, we have 2 sets of rules: one for foreign-born and another for native-born.
It’s no wonder that Minister Ong Ye Kung recently said that the Singaporean identity itself is “rather quite empty”.