Swimming body drops Red Lions name following outcry

Singapore's aquatic athletes will no longer be called the Red Lions after the tag sparked an outcry among the public and military men past and present.

The name is identical to the one coined in 1995 for the Singapore Armed Forces' (SAF) elite skydiving team, which has been a perennial favourite at every National Day Parade since.

The Singapore Swimming Association (SSA) said it would scrap the "Red Lions" name, following a meeting between the swimming body and representatives from the Ministry of Defence yesterday.

A new name has not been chosen.

Responding to queries from The Straits Times, SSA vice-president (finance) Jose Raymond said the body "recognises the SAF parachute team as Singapore's Red Lions".

"Moving forward, we will not use the name and will work with our athletes and stakeholders to continue the rallying call to have Singaporeans back our team for the South-east Asian Games and beyond," he said.

Chief Commando Officer Simon Lim, who oversees the SAF parachuting team, welcomed the SSA's move to drop the Red Lions tag.

He said: "The SAF Red Lions and our national aquatic teams are sources of national pride for Singaporeans. We are supportive of our aquatic athletes and are cheering them on as they fly the Singapore flag high at the upcoming South-east Asian Games."

A Mindef spokesman also backed the SSA's decision, saying the ministry and the SAF support the Republic's athletes and "look forward to a strong showing by Team Singapore" at the upcoming SEA Games.

When word emerged last Saturday about the SSA's move to use the Red Lions name, it drew flak from soldiers past and present, as well as members of the public, who criticised the SSA for not coming up with an original name.

The Straits Times understands that other names considered by the SSA and some athletes included the Red Singas, Red Merlions and Aquamen.

When contacted, members of the Republic's aquatics team were unfazed by the kerfuffle over the name.

National swimmer Russell Ong said the morale of the swimmers would not be affected by the episode.

The 25-year-old, who is also chairman of the SSA's athletes' commission, said: "You can call us whatever you want, it will not make much of a difference to how we perform.

"We will still put in our best efforts, fly the Singapore flag high and bring glory to the country."

jermync@sph.com.sg