NMP job won't be smooth sailing: Ex-national sailor Ben Tan

Dr Ben Tan, who has officially put his name up as a candidate for the post of Nominated MP, says that with the growing profile of local sports, there is greater pressure to keep tabs on the investments in the industry. -- ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG
Dr Ben Tan, who has officially put his name up as a candidate for the post of Nominated MP, says that with the growing profile of local sports, there is greater pressure to keep tabs on the investments in the industry. -- ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

Ben Tan feels being voice for sports more complex now

His credentials may suggest that there are few more suited to be a champion for sports in Parliament. But even as Dr Ben Tan officially put his name up as a candidate for Nominated MP, the former national sailor acknowledged that the job is now trickier than ever before.

With Singapore athletes regularly making the podiums at major meets like the Asian Games and the Olympics, a growing sports profile locally means there is also greater pressure to help keep tabs on the investment put into sports.

"It's more complex," he said yesterday in an interview held at the National Sailing Centre.

"Thanks to the Government, the investment in sports has grown. (But) with increased investment, there is also increased responsibility - both tangible and intangible."

Dr Tan, who is also chief of the Singapore Sailing Federation, submitted forms for the NMP post on Monday. If successful, he will take over from Mr Nicholas Fang as the voice for sports in Parliament.

He added: "When the stakes are higher, we have to work harder to ensure things move in a positive direction. I see it as a responsibility... I owe it to Singapore to ensure that we get good returns and continue to invest in sports. Because of the stakes involved in sports, it definitely needs a voice in Parliament."

Dr Tan said that if he is appointed, he intends to pursue issues related to the national high performance system and ensure that athletes get the required help to allow them to perform on the world stage. The sports physician also plans to look at issues within the industry, as well as exercise and medicine to help keep the sporting discussion a holistic one.

An Asian Games gold medallist (1994) and three-time Sportsman of the Year (1992, 1995 and 1996), Dr Tan will not be the first former national athlete to represent sports in Parliament, should he be appointed. Previous NMPs such as Ms Joscelin Yeo (swimming) and Mr Fang (fencing) all competed in national colours.

International Olympic Committee member Ng Ser Miang, a former NMP and athlete himself, backed Dr Tan for the role.

He said: "I have known Ben since 1978 when he was a young sailor at the age of 11. He is a role model in our community, serving as a model athlete, sports physician, administrator and volunteer.

"Ben is passionate and committed. If nominated, I am confident that he will speak fairly and contribute positively to the parliamentary debate."

While Dr Tan admits the commitment to take on the role is not a small one, he is fully committed to it, despite his many hats. He said: "I wouldn't volunteer myself if I can't do an effective job. As an athlete, I'm used to pain and putting in sweat and effort. If Singapore needs you, you do it."

maychen@sph.com.sg