Athletics: Clash in values led Singapore Athletics' general manager to quit

Singapore Athletics' general manager Jaime Cheong has resigned in the latest blow to the association, which has been plagued by infighting among officials that has affected athletes.
Singapore Athletics' general manager Jaime Cheong has resigned in the latest blow to the association, which has been plagued by infighting among officials that has affected athletes.

Disputes should not be publicised, says Jaime Cheong, who insists exit is unrelated to probe

Singapore Athletics (SA) general manager Jaime Cheong tendered her resignation yesterday, following a turbulent period which saw the national sports association plagued by infighting and disputes among officials.

Cheong, together with four other members of SA's sports performance and development team, were recently the subject of an investigation by a board of inquiry over their involvement in a controversial WhatsApp conversation.

When contacted, the 35-year-old told The Straits Times 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 neither related to the matter nor was her decision made as a result of the board's findings.

Photos of the WhatsApp saga had been 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 e-mail and added that she would attend any interviews deemed necessary to an independent board.

She had joined SA in February last year 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' 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 her resignation, but declined to comment further.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 27, 2017, with the headline 'Clash in values led athletics' GM to quit'. Print Edition | Subscribe