New SNOC committee to serve female athletes in Singapore

SINGAPORE - In 2013, Teoh Chin Sim attended the Afro-Asian Women and Sport Forum in Kuwait, where she sat between a delegate from Somalia who worked with refugees, and one from Timor Leste who was a freedom fighter.

Her interactions at the conference, along with previous experiences at various international meetings discussing the Women In Sport movement over the last 25 years, cemented her belief that female athletes in Singapore would benefit from having a commission that they could turn to.

Teoh, Singapore's first female sports physician, was in April made chair of the newly formed Women In Sport Committee, under the auspices of the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC).

"In Singapore, I've asked many women and girls how a committee like this could be of service to them, and there are many ways," explained the 54-year-old.

"For example, some athletes have got to juggle their school or careers.... some have children, and they try to soldier on.

"Some have mental stress or depression, from the pressure created by demands and expectations of themselves, the country, their team, their national sports association, and so on. They are looking for a means of helping themselves, and this is one of the areas we hope we can help."

The new committee has nine members, including current and former national athletes such as bowler Shayna Ng and swimming's Joscelin Yeo.

Previously, the only other group with a similar cause was the Women and Sports Working Group, formed under the Singapore Sports Council (now Sport Singapore) in 1999, and which Teoh was the secretary of.

She said her current committee aims to work with other organisations to "develop policies and implement strategies" in six areas: leadership in sports, mentoring, health and nutrition, safety, education, and research.

"(In the) long term, we'd like to see more women coming up to serve in leadership positions, as well as in other positions within sports like officiating, empiring, coaching and judging," said Teoh, who has served as Team Singapore's chief medical officer at several major Games, including the Commonwealth and Asian Games.

She added that every member of the committee "brings something to the table", such as former national swimmer Yeo, who is a counsellor at her church, and national women's rugby sevens coach Wang Shao-Ing, who practised law for 10 years before turning to focus on rugby-related activities.

"Dr Teoh has a vision where we can perhaps increase accessibility to sports for girls or support those already in sport, and our collective experiences will hopefully see us able to contribute to that," said Wang, who also sits on the judicial panel of Asia Rugby, as well as World Rugby's women's advisory committee.

Former national swimmer and jiu-jitsu exponent May Ooi, who is also a member and worked closely with Teoh to set up the committee, said female athletes have "very unique needs" which she hopes would be served with the committee.

"We wanted to set up a safe space for our female athletes so they will always have a resource body to turn to," said Ooi.

"I also hope we are able to mentor female athletes to help them have a smooth transition from sports to working life... (and to see) more women in leadership positions in sports in the long run."