Athletics: 3 candidates emerge for soon-to-be vacant Singapore Athletics general manager role

Team Singapore men's 4x100m relay runners (from left) Calvin Kang, Khairyll Amri, Timothee Yap, and Hariz Darajit.
Team Singapore men's 4x100m relay runners (from left) Calvin Kang, Khairyll Amri, Timothee Yap, and Hariz Darajit. PHOTO: ELDRIDGE CHANG/SPORTS SINGAPORE

SINGAPORE - As outgoing Singapore Athletics (SA) general manager Jaime Cheong's official last day of work approaches on Jan 10, SA president Ho Mun Cheong stressed that while finding a replacement as soon as possible is ideal, it is more important to ensure that the right person is hired for the job.

The Straits Times understands that three names, as of now, have emerged as potential candidates being considered for the position. They are former SA director-general Eric Song, former Sport Singapore (SportSG) assistant director of events development Ong Chong Lin and chairman of the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) Athletes' Commission Yip Renkai.

Cheong resigned in October, citing a "clash in values".

Ho chose not to comment on the three, but said: "We need to find the right person for the job - someone objective who is well-versed in track and field, who can work closely with stakeholders, officials, coaches and the management committee, and who will work towards the good of the sport in Singapore.

"SA is working closely with the SNOC and SportSG to find a new general manager."

Song, the head of Sports and Adventure at the Singapore Management University's Office of Student Life, did not want to disclose if he was approached or applied for the post, but said he is willing to be considered.

The role would be a familiar one to the 57-year-old, who headed SA's full-time secretariat when he was its director-general from 2002 to 2007. He had been seconded to the association from SportSG, where he was deputy director of athlete development for almost 10 years.

Acknowledging the "challenging" nature of the current local athletics landscape, Song told ST: "It would take a lot to uproot me from my present position as I love my present job working with students.

"I'll have to consider whether I'm the right person to bring the factions together. If I can do anything positive for the sport, I'll try to be there and do it."

SA has been plagued with infighting this year, with the bitterness among its leadership coming to a head in June after leaked photos of a Whatsapp conversation appeared to show one of its vice-presidents instructing staff to get two local coaches into trouble.

Ong previously worked with SA on various events like last year's Asia Masters Athletics Championships and Athletics Festival during his stint at SportSG.

The 51-year-old declined to reveal his reasons for applying for SA's top secretariat post, but told ST: "I know of many athletes, coaches, sports professionals and supporters who would benefit from a strong SA to lead the way forward.

"The general manager will play an important role in helping the management committee achieve that."

Yip, a former national water polo player, said he would consider the role if approached.

The 34-year-old was team manager for Singapore's athletics contingent at the SEA Games in August, after the SNOC and SportSG jointly set up a major Games preparation committee in June to ensure that the athletes' preparations would not be affected by the disharmony within SA.

National hurdler Dipna Lim-Prasad, who serves with Yip on the SNOC Athletes' Commission, believes Yip makes a good candidate as he can "easily take an athlete-centric role".

But the 26-year-old said it is important that whoever the general manager was, that he brings stability.

"For me, coming out of the SEA Games it was difficult to plan for 2018 because I wasn't sure what was confirmed and what wasn't... (Athletes) just need the assurance that their training and competition plans can follow through and that everyone is working towards that common goal of improving athletics in Singapore," she said.