Athletics: Gojek GM Lien Choong Luen defeats lawyer Edmond Pereira in battle for top post in Singapore track and field

New Singapore Athletics president Lien Choong Luen's (centre) entire nine-man slate was voted into the management committee, with each of them receiving at least 14 of the 17 valid votes.
New Singapore Athletics president Lien Choong Luen's (centre) entire nine-man slate was voted into the management committee, with each of them receiving at least 14 of the 17 valid votes.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - Lien Choong Luen has been elected president of Singapore Athletics (SA) for the next two years.

He defeated lawyer Edmond Pereira 14-3 at the association's annual general meeting (AGM) on Friday (Sept 25).

Pereira, 70, a stalwart of the local scene, has now lost the bid for the SA top job four times - this year and in 1984, 2000 and 2016. He had led a team of nine called TeamSGP Athletics.

SA's affiliates - 19 out of 23 were present - made their choice at the Nexus Auditorium in Cuppage Plaza. There were only 17 valid votes, with two votes spoilt.

Lien, 43, the general manager of ride-hailing firm Gojek, has promised to run the troubled national sports association with transparency and accountability.

The strong mandate given saw him voted in along with his entire slate of nine – called Team Ground Up – to form SA's new management committee (MC).

However, the position each elected member will take up on the MC will be confirmed only after its first meeting. There will also be two non-elected members of the committee: the executive director and an athletes' commission representative.

SA is currently involved in legal proceedings with two-time SEA Games marathon gold medallist Soh Rui Yong over comments made regarding his omission from the 2019 Games.

Aside from the court proceedings, the fraternity has produced negative headlines in recent years because of leaked WhatsApp chats appearing to show plots against coaches, high-profile disputes between athletes, and abrupt resignations of national coaches and management committee members after internal disputes.

 
 
 

The disharmony has affected athletes' performances, as seen in the 2019 SEA Games when the team failed to win a single gold medal at the biennial meet for the first time since 1991.

In his farewell message to the track and field community, outgoing president Tang Weng Fei, who had declined to stand again, noted this, saying: "We are falling behind our neighbours, and this is a wake-up call not just for the association, but for the coaches and athletes as well."

He also admitted that the past 12 months had been "tumultuous" but urged them to "never lose sight of what's important". "SAA's priority should always be our athletes," he said.

"Collectively, we all have the same goal for our sport, to push the boundaries and expectations of what Singaporean athletes can bring to the world stage. However, it begins and ends with our ability to collaborate - time and resources need to be dedicated towards the athlete, and not in civil litigation."

In the lead-up to Friday night's elections, Lien's team announced they had secured $100,000 in donations to get their plans going if voted into power.

These plans - covering access and development support, competition opportunities, athlete management and strengthening governance - include turning institutes of higher learning into regional training centres and providing coaches for athletes from schools that do not focus on athletics, among others.

 

SA'S NEW MANAGEMENT COMMITTEE:

Lien Choong Luen, Gary Yeo, Joe Yap, Marinda Teo, Arthur Lin, Belinda Neo, Jonathan Tan Liong, Chen Siyuan, Kelvin Ang.