Old hand Kwee to lead Singapore at SEA Games

Milan Kwee is optimistic that Singapore will perform well in Malaysia. The Republic's best "away" SEA Games haul is 43 golds in 2007.
Milan Kwee is optimistic that Singapore will perform well in Malaysia. The Republic's best "away" SEA Games haul is 43 golds in 2007.ST FILE PHOTO

STF president, 70, named the Republic's chef de mission at next year's Kuala Lumpur SEA Games

A SEA Games that immediately follows one that was Singapore's best is tricky enough. That it will be held in the backyard of Causeway rivals Malaysia will make the mission even tougher.

So even as the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) continues to blood new faces in leadership roles, it also made sure an "old hand" was given the opportunity to head the contingent at next year's Games in Kuala Lumpur.

It is counting on Singapore Taekwondo Federation (STF) president Milan Kwee to be that pair of steady hands, appointing the 70-year-old yesterday as Team Singapore's chef de mission at the Aug 19-31 Games.

While Kwee may be an unfamiliar face to some, he is by no means an unknown in the local sports fraternity. He first served a two-year term as STF president in 1983, before returning in 2004 as chief, a post he has held since.

He has also been on the SNOC executive committee since 2012 as a national sports associations (NSAs) representative.

Said SNOC secretary-general Chris Chan: "This is not an easy appointment. I anticipate a big contingent. You need someone who has that experience, maturity and level-headedness to handle issues."

GEARING UP THE YOUTH

I believe in renewal and I think that's very important because they are the future. I hope that NSAs will prepare their young athletes so that we get more up-and-coming people competing.

MILAN KWEE, Team Singapore's chef de mission for next year's SEA Games, on his hope that younger Singapore athletes can step up at the biennial event.

The SNOC has in recent years started to introduce younger faces - many of them retired athletes - in leadership roles at major Games.

Shooter Lee Wung Yew, 50, was chef de mission at the 2009 Asian Youth Games (AYG) here, before thrower James Wong, 47, led the hosts at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in 2010.

Paddler Tan Paey Fern, 42, was chief at the 2013 AYG, while swimmer Mark Chay, 34, was called on for the 2014 YOG in Nanjing.

Last year, fencer Nicholas Fang, 41, was chef de mission alongside veteran Dr Tan Eng Liang at the SEA Games here.

"We've been grooming the younger ones," said Chan. "It's a matter of time before these younger guys start doing the big Games."

For now, the responsibility of steering the contingent through the SEA Games will be Kwee's.

On the back of a home Games where Singapore finished with 84 golds, the Republic's best showing at the biennial event, Kwee is well aware that expectations for the next edition will be high.

Sport Singapore chief executive officer Lim Teck Yin recently called on athletes to target a best "away" showing in Malaysia. That would mean surpassing the 43 golds won in Thailand in 2007.

Still, buoyed by the successes at last year's SEA Games and August's Rio Games, where swimmer Joseph Schooling won Singapore's first Olympic gold, Kwee is optimistic of a good showing.

He said: "What Joseph Schooling achieved at the Olympics has given spark to many people and they now believe more that a lot of things are achievable if you really try.

"I'm certainly looking forward to it," he noted of the possibility of a best "away" Games.

Kwee is hopeful that the younger athletes will step up, saying: "I'm looking at the youth. I believe in renewal and I think that's very important because they are the future.

"I hope that NSAs will prepare their young athletes so that we get more up-and-coming people competing."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 15, 2016, with the headline 'Old hand Kwee to lead S'pore'. Print Edition | Subscribe