Athletics: Singapore Athletics general manager Yip Ren Kai resigns

Yip Ren Kai, a former national water polo player, had joined the association on a three-year contract in February 2018. PHOTO: COURTESY OF YIP RENKAI

SINGAPORE - Singapore Athletics (SA) is on the hunt for a new general manager, after Yip Ren Kai tendered his resignation on Friday (March 1).

The former national water polo player joined the association on a three-year contract in February 2018.

Yip, whose last day of work is on March 29, told The Straits Times: "Over the past few months, the association has moved along quite a bit with the new management and we can definitely see that there have been improvements made not only within the fraternity, but also within the structure of the association.

"So it's time to pass it on to someone who can bring the association to the next level."

The 36-year-old had joined SA at a turbulent time, during which it was plagued by infighting. This led to Yip, then the chairman of the Singapore National Olympic Council's (SNOC) athletes' commission, leading the athletics team to the 2017 SEA Games as team manager after the SNOC and Sport Singapore (SportSG) jointly set up a major Games preparation committee to ensure that the athletes' preparations would not be affected by the officials' bickering.

A new team, led by president Tang Weng Fei, has since been in charge of SA, after the association's biennial elections in October 2018.

Yip pointed to the setting up of the coaching structure for different age groups for relays and the rebuilding of relationships with key stakeholders as signs SA is on the right track, and expressed confidence that Singapore's track and field athletes can one day dominate South-east Asia.

"Within the fraternity, everyone can see that the association is working together to try to improve the sport, so everything is moving in the right direction," he added.

"Taking baby steps will be crucial and being able to get more people and schools participating in athletics would be a key success factor... once the public regains confidence in the association and the sport, there'll be more people competing and more parents allowing their kids to focus on athletics. From there, a bigger base of athletes will be built."

Yip, who was associate director of partnerships of the T2 Asia-Pacific Table Tennis League before joining SA, will return to the private sector and be involved in the commercial side of sports.

SA's vice-president of training and selection Syed Abdul Malik Aljunied noted that Yip made significant contributions to the association, saying: "He pulled the secretariat together and ensured their welfare was taken care of, and he was also able to work with the different personalities in the management committee."

SA is searching for a new general manager in consultation with national sports agency SportSG, said Malik, who stressed that there is no rush in seeking a replacement as it is important to find the right candidate.

The ideal candidate, he said, is a people person with a strong sporting background.

"It would help if the person has been a former athlete as well, and preferably someone who is familiar with track and field," he added.

"We are looking at (someone with) strong leadership, management experience, and someone who is comfortable engaging the different stakeholders. In athletics, the stakeholders' profiles are very diverse - parents, coaches, sponsors, administrators, affiliates... we need somebody who is a people person."

He also revealed that the association has spoken to three possible candidates and are in the process of speaking to a few more.

Said Malik: "We are keeping our options open and casting the net wide as it is a key position, and we want to get it right."

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