Athletes hope for long-term solution

National runner Dipna Lim-Prasad coming from behind to win the 400m race at the Thailand Open at the Thammasat University Sport Complex on June 14, 2017.
National runner Dipna Lim-Prasad coming from behind to win the 400m race at the Thailand Open at the Thammasat University Sport Complex on June 14, 2017. PHOTO: TIMOTHEE YAP

The formation of a major Games preparation committee to oversee track and field's preparation for the upcoming SEA Games has been welcomed by athletes.

But while many agree that there is now less uncertainty where their campaign at the Kuala Lumpur event is concerned, most also feel that the deep-rooted problems that plague Singapore Athletics (SA) still need addressing.

To them, setting up a committee in the lead-up to the Aug 19-30 SEA Games is simply putting a Band-Aid over the gushing wound created by decades of strife within SA.

Hurdler Dipna Lim-Prasad, currently in Hong Kong for competition, told The Straits Times that she is hopeful that athletes will now be able to focus on their campaign for the biennial event.

She was referring to the pro-tem body that the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) and Sport Singapore (SportSG) announced yesterday. It will take charge of the athletics team for the SEA Games, taking over the reins from SA.

But the committee remains a stop-gap measure, said the 26-year-old national record holder in the 400m hurdles.

"It's sad that external parties have to step in, but this at least will help settle things for the next two months," she said. "As an athlete, all I want is to train and compete without having to worry.

"Hopefully this will help give officials some time to sort things out because we need a cohesive association to progress."

Apart from the recently leaked WhatsApp conversations that reflected the deep-seated divisions within SA, an extraordinary general meeting was also called last month to elect a new management committee. It did not take place, after the meeting was called off a day before it was slated to happen.

Said sprinter and 2016 Olympian Timothee Yap: "What's unfolded within SA in recent months has been embarrassing and disappointing, especially since it comes from the organisation that we are supposed to trust wholeheartedly.

"We bear the responsibility to perform and qualify for major Games, but we also need clarity and direction from the association.

"For the next two months I just hope there will be some firm, decisive leadership and planning that's forward-looking."

Added pole vaulter Rachel Yang, a silver medallist at the 2015 SEA Games: "We hope that there will be a longer-term solution."

SA president Ho Mun Cheong conceded that there is no guarantee that there will be peace within the management by the time its officials are handed back the reins.

To that, he is mulling over another call for snap polls. A board of inquiry could also be convened next month, to "investigate" a "wide range" of issues.

He told ST last night: "If we really can't get along, then we have to think about how to form a new team. At the moment, I'd say we leave all our differences aside and concentrate on the SEA Games.

"I'll leave it to the affiliates. They will be the ones who will give a mandate to the new team."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 24, 2017, with the headline 'Athletes hope for long-term solution'. Print Edition | Subscribe