Athletics: Ex-honcho mulls over SA return

Former SA president Tang Weng Fei will likely contest for the presidency again, should there be an election at next year's AGM. SA has been racked by constant internal friction over the past few years.
Former SA president Tang Weng Fei will likely contest for the presidency again, should there be an election at next year's AGM. SA has been racked by constant internal friction over the past few years.ST FILE PHOTO

Tang 'strongly considering' bid for presidency and has two names in mind as part of his slate

Amid calls for new leadership to take over the helm at Singapore Athletics (SA) after a slew of bitter disagreements among top officials, an old face could turn out to be the one to reunite the factions.

Former SA president Tang Weng Fei told The Straits Times yesterday that he is "strongly considering" contesting for the presidency again if there is an election at next year's annual general meeting (AGM).

The 63-year-old had served as SA president from 2004 to 2006, and from 2010 until last year.

The New Paper had reported in May that Tang was mulling a return, after a snap poll called by the association to elect new leaders was hastily cancelled.

Yesterday, Tang told ST: "One of the factors (I'm considering) is that it has to be a completely new team.

"I've been there long enough and I know what it takes to change, but unfortunately, we're hampered by a lot of internal bickering which has been blown out of proportion over the past year."

The former national hurdler, who had stepped down due to in-fighting within the fraternity, named former national sprinters Poh Seng Song and Kenneth Khoo as two individuals he would like to have on his team as they "are very passionate and have the qualities to lead the next generation".

Tang added: "(It has to be) a completely new executive committee that has to have no agenda and works for the sake of the sport."

SA has been plagued by internal strife and discord in recent years.

ST understands that the latest incident, which came to light yesterday, involves a list of grievances made by national sprint-hurdler Dipna Lim-Prasad against technical director Volker Herrmann.

It is understood that, before and during last month's Kuala Lumpur SEA Games, Lim-Prasad had experienced several interactions with Herrmann that she believed did not bode well for the future of the sport.

The 26-year-old had set two national records in the women's 400m and 4x100m relay at the Games, and also retained her silver in the 400m hurdles.

Still, Singapore won just two out of the 45 athletics golds at the Games - a haul which Sport Singapore (SportSG) chief executive officer Lim Teck Yin says was "just giving away too much".

He was speaking at a post-SEA Games media conference at the SportSG auditorium yesterday, and also urged SA to "put its differences aside and figure out together with its affiliates how they're going to put in place a leadership that will take us somewhere".

He added: "For a sport like athletics, we need to go back to the drawing block.

"There is a requirement for them to report back on the progress of developing those multi-year plans.

"We think it will be something that the current management committee is not in the position, not just to articulate, but possibly even if they could articulate it, there is doubt as to whether they can implement it coherently and cohesively.

"There's some difficult conversations in the weeks ahead.

"There are going to be some strong positions that we would have to take with regard to continued funding, and I think a shake-up is on the cards."

SA president Ho Mun Cheong, who called off an extraordinary general meeting (EOGM) to elect a new management committee in May, on the advice of International Olympic Committee member Ng Ser Miang, believes the standard of Singapore track and field can be raised only with the in-fighting gone.

He said: "We should have a new team that focuses on the athletes and their performances."

SA's constitution states that an EOGM cannot be convened for the same purpose within six months.

Ho, who was elected last year and is serving a two-year term, said he will consult with the management committee before deciding whether to call for an EOGM later this year, or to hold an election at next year's AGM.

The 68-year-old, as well as Ng, believes Tang will have several factors in his favour, should the latter decide to run again for SA president.

Ng told ST yesterday: "(Tang) is very capable and if he's coming back, he will be a strong candidate.

"My advice to those who want to join the next leadership of SA is for each and everyone to do some deep soul-searching... whether they are thinking of the good for the sport and whether they can work together as a team."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 13, 2017, with the headline 'Ex-honcho mulls over SA return'. Print Edition | Subscribe