STTA and Feng Tianwei: Ex-coach speaks out

Above: Yang's services were terminated last November, 11/2 years before his contract was up. Left: Feng hugging Jing at the London Olympic Games in 2012. It is understood that the women's team, who had been led by Jing since 2013, had felt that their
Feng hugging Jing at the London Olympic Games in 2012. It is understood that the women's team, who had been led by Jing since 2013, had felt that their progress under the former national paddler was limited.ST FILE PHOTO
Above: Yang's services were terminated last November, 11/2 years before his contract was up. Left: Feng hugging Jing at the London Olympic Games in 2012. It is understood that the women's team, who had been led by Jing since 2013, had felt that their
Yang's services were terminated last November, 11/2 years before his contract was up.

He cites story of his sacking as one of the factors behind breakdown in relationship

When Yang Chuanning was sacked as national table tennis men's head coach last November, little was made known about his sudden dismissal.

But it has now emerged that the termination of his services, 1½ years before his contract was up, was one of the factors that contributed to the breakdown of the relationship between world No. 6 Feng Tianwei and some senior members of the Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA) leadership.

The STTA had axed Feng from the national squad on Tuesday, announcing that the 30-year-old "does not fit into the STTA's current plans for rejuvenation".

Yang, 58, revealed to The Sunday Times that the women's team had made a request around October last year for him to replace Jing Junhong as head coach of the women's team.

Said Yang: "The women's team approached me privately to see if I might be interested in coaching them. Maybe it came across to some that I had instigated the players, but I never asked for the post. I was comfortable as men's team coach.

"I'm open to a new challenge if they think I'm suitable for the role but it was a decision for the STTA to make."

The request, however, is believed to have caused relations to sour between Feng and the senior leadership in the STTA, eventually contributing to her recent expulsion from the national team.

Shortly after that, a public disagreement erupted between national paddler Yu Mengyu and Jing at the Polish Open.

The latter, who is married to STTA technical director Loy Soo Han, was then redeployed as chief coach (youth development). That announcement was made by the STTA, along with the news of Yang's sacking.

It is understood that the women's team, who had been led by Jing since 2013, had felt that their progress under the former national paddler was limited.

 
 
 

Their team ranking slipped from third at the London Games - where Feng and company took bronze for a second successive team medal at the Olympics - to No. 6 in October last year, their lowest in years.

When Yang's fate was decided, the STTA said in a statement then that the "decision comes after extensive consultation with the players of the men's team".

"The decision is being made in the best interests of the players and in view of the upcoming Rio Olympics 2016," it added in a statement.

Yang was given a week to leave the country, returning to his native Jiangsu where he is consultant to the Jiangsu provincial team. It was not until three months later that a replacement for Yang - Liu Jiayi - was appointed for the men's national team.

ST understands that Yang's professionalism and capability were questioned by some members of the STTA leadership.

But one of Yang's former charges here, who spoke to ST on the condition of anonymity, said: "Coach Yang has a high level of technical skills and he was helpful whether in training or competition. The results he has helped produce are there for all to see."

Under Yang, the men's team achieved two straight top-eight finishes at the World Team Table Tennis Championships in 2012 and 2014. Singapore also won men's doubles bronzes at both the 2013 Asian Championships and the 2014 Asian Games in South Korea.

Said Yang: "I left Singapore feeling very upset, but I've moved on and wouldn't have brought it up again if not for what Tianwei is going through now."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 30, 2016, with the headline 'Ex-coach lifts lid on STTA's rift with Feng'. Print Edition | Subscribe