Athletics: SA general manager tenders resignation, latest blow for troubled association

Jaime Cheong was the head coach of the national women's floorball team before joining Singapore Athletics as its sports development and performance manager.
Jaime Cheong was the head coach of the national women's floorball team before joining Singapore Athletics as its sports development and performance manager.PHOTO: JAIME CHEONG

SINGAPORE - Singapore Athletics (SA) general manager Jaime Cheong tendered her resignation on Thursday (Oct 26), The Straits Times has learnt.

The 35-year-old, together with four other members of SA's sports performance and development team, were recently investigated by a board of inquiry for their involvement in a controversial WhatsApp conversation.

When contacted, Cheong told ST her decision was driven by a "clash in values", and that she did not agree with the way the association's internal disagreements had been made public.

"Running an association should be athlete-centric instead of dirty laundry being aired, and whatever disagreements between officials shouldn't affect the athletes," she added.

"I wish the disagreements had been kept in-house, with discussions to solve them kept among ourselves instead of being aired publicly."

Cheong emphasised that her resignation is not related to the matter, nor was her decision made as a result of the board's findings.

Her decision comes on the back of a turbulent time for the national sports association, which has been plagued with infighting and disputes among officials.

Photos of the WhatsApp saga had leaked in June. It appeared to show SA vice-president (training and selection) Govindasamy Balasekaran instructing SA staff to collect evidence so that disciplinary action would have to be taken against local coaches Margaret Oh (sprint) and David Yeo (pole vault).

Cheong, SA technical director Volker Herrmann, sports development and performance manager Ong Wan Xin and senior executive Shalindran Sathiyanesan were part of the conversation.

A month later, a board of inquiry, comprising SA's chairman of race walking Leong Lee San, SA's chairman of officials Joe Yap and Wings Athletic Club president Jezreel Mok, was formed to investigate the matter.

The board released its findings to SA's management committee (MC) two weeks ago. It recommended that the association refer the matter to an independent disciplinary committee.

Cheong said she had sent her feedback about the board's findings to the MC via email and added she would attend any interviews deemed necessary to an independent board.

She joined SA in February 2016 as its sports development and performance manager and was appointed general manager a month later. She was previously the national women's floorball team coach.

Her appointment as general member was understood to be one of the issues which had caused conflict within the SA leadership, as questions had been raised over her suitability for the role.

"It was challenging yet fulfilling because you do learn a lot from challenges and that helps a person grow," said Cheong, who will serve three months of notice.

"I don't have any regrets, it's just that we could have done so much more."

When contacted, SA president Ho Mun Cheong confirmed that he had received notice of Cheong's resignation, but declined to comment further.