Athletics: Focus on Games, says athletics chief ahead of AGM

Volker Herrmann supervising national team training at the Kallang Practice Track on his first day at work on April 1. SA boss Ho Mun Cheong has called for him to be excluded from the team heading for the Asian Championships in India owing to recent d
Volker Herrmann supervising national team training at the Kallang Practice Track on his first day at work on April 1. SA boss Ho Mun Cheong has called for him to be excluded from the team heading for the Asian Championships in India owing to recent disputes.ST FILE PHOTO

Ho wants fraternity to close ranks in wake of spat and fallout between officials and coaches

Singapore Athletics (SA) president Ho Mun Cheong has called for unity and for the fraternity to focus on the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games, ahead of SA's annual general meeting (AGM) today.

The AGM, to be held at the Singapore Sports Hub's Black Box auditorium, comes amid a turbulent time for the sporting body. Its management committee is split and officials are embroiled in ugly public spats, less than two months before the SEA Games begin in Kuala Lumpur on Aug 19.

Ho, whose team swept 12 of 14 spots on the management committee at last year's AGM, told The Straits Times: "The most important thing is for the athletes and coaches to have peace of mind and to focus on training.

"I will make a short speech asking everyone to focus on the SEA Games. That should be our priority."

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Ho said he expects the AGM to proceed without any drama.

Chief on the agenda will be the election of current SA affiliate members to serve in the management committee.

The SA has 20 affiliates, and 12 will be elected to serve one-year terms. Together with the 14 office holders, they form the association's decision-making body.

THE KEY ISSUE

The most important thing is for the athletes and coaches to have peace of mind and to focus on training.

HO MUN CHEONG, SA president, on the sport's priority following the AGM.

The sport hit the news last week when the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) and Sport Singapore announced that they would set up a major Games preparation committee to oversee track and field affairs leading up to the Kuala Lumpur Games.

The body is co-chaired by SNOC secretary-general Chris Chan and Singapore Sports Institute chief Toh Boon Yi.

The move comes after leaked photos of a WhatsApp conversation showed SA vice-president (training and selection) Govindasamy Balasekaran apparently instructing SA staff to collect evidence, so as to force Ho to take disciplinary action against coaches Margaret Oh (sprint) and David Yeo (pole vault).

To this, Ho confirmed he will propose forming an independent board of inquiry (BOI) at the next management committee meeting.

"After the AGM we will convene a BOI. The board will be independent and we will take their report into consideration," he said.

Technical director Volker Herrmann is also at loggerheads with the two coaches.

Oh and Herrmann fell out over sprinter Shanti Pereira's participation in a proposed training camp in Taiwan. He threatened to drop the reigning 200m Games champion from the 4x100m relay team if she did not attend the camp.

The German also disagreed with Yeo over pole vaulter Cherlin Sia's participation at the Thailand Open earlier this month. Cherlin went on to set a new Under-18 women's pole vault record of 3.35m at the Hong Kong Inter-City Athletics Championships two days ago.

ST reported on Sunday that Ho had called for Herrmann to be excluded from the team heading to India for next week's Asian Athletics Championships.

Yesterday, Ho said: "I stand by my decision. Volker is involved in some disputes and the athletes might be distracted. I have written to the major Games preparation committee and it is up to them."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 27, 2017, with the headline 'Focus on games: Athletics chief'. Print Edition | Subscribe