Table tennis: Challengers aim to halt decline

Toh Kian Lam eyes STTA presidency, wants stiffer criteria for full members that can vote

Toh Kian Lam (centre) and his team members running in the STTA election (from left) Bernard Tan, Eric Fong, Terry Tan, Patricia Kim, Ow Chee Chung, Marcus Tan, Wu Xiaowen and Andrew Tan.
Toh Kian Lam (centre) and his team members running in the STTA election (from left) Bernard Tan, Eric Fong, Terry Tan, Patricia Kim, Ow Chee Chung, Marcus Tan, Wu Xiaowen and Andrew Tan.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Former national player Toh Kian Lam has vowed to adopt an athlete-centric approach if he and his team win the upcoming Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA) general election.

The 52-year-old yesterday unveiled his nine-member team for the polls, which must be held by Sept 30, as well as his manifesto.

The team of nine are called Team 3H. The three Hs stand for heads, hearts and hands, referring to the team's expertise, passion and hands-on nature respectively.

This will be the first time in at least 10 years that the top post will be contested, with incumbent STTA president Ellen Lee confirming in March that she plans to stand for a third term.

At a press conference at the Singapore Sports Hub, Toh and his team, who comprise both active and retired paddlers, noted that the results of the national team in major competitions such as the Olympics have been on a downward trend in recent years.

The Republic did not win a table tennis medal in 2016 after one silver (2008) and two bronzes (2012) from the previous Games.

He also pointed out the attrition rate among junior players, where only two out of 18 medallists since the 2012-2013 SEA Junior and Cadet Table Tennis Championships remain within the STTA system, lamenting that Singapore has "regrettably lost a whole generation of talented paddlers".

He said that his team would work to establish "an effective pathway to develop and nurture both local-born and naturalised elite paddlers". This includes having customised training programmes for each player.

Former national paddler Patricia Kim, one of the nine members of Toh's team and the last Singapore-born player to win the SEA Games women's singles gold (1985), added: "I achieved (the gold) through years of hard work and of course support from all the coaches. I believe our local-born (players) can do as well, if not better. What we need to do is nurture them to give them the opportunity, just like what table tennis gave me 33 years ago. "

Toh added that he would seek to professionalise the STTA if elected and that his team would also develop an all-inclusive programme which would see more Singaporeans take up the sport regardless of age, ethnicity, ability or disability.

Another key point of his address saw him calling on the association to reassess the composition of its membership, pointing out that of the 44 full members with voting rights, "only nine participated in STTA tournaments (between 2015 and this year)".

He noted 27 are grassroots organisations and added: "If the full members with voting rights cannot further add value to the running of the STTA, why should they be there?

"I think there is a dire need to amend the constitution so that only clubs with regular table tennis involvement can be admitted as a full member with voting rights."

In response, STTA president Lee said: "There are many ways of promoting sports, participating in competitions is one of the many ways to stay fit and healthy...

"Besides, some of our full members are involved in other areas such as STTA events, co-organisers of our local table tennis tournaments, outreach programmes, fund-raising and (playing) table tennis regularly at their table tennis interest clubs."

Toh urged the STTA to follow Singapore Athletics' (SA) example and amend its constitution ahead of the election. SA's biennial election, originally due to be held by June 29, has been delayed as it recently reviewed its constitution and the changes are pending approval by the Registry of Societies (ROS).

According to the STTA's constitution, any changes can be made only at a biennial general meeting or extraordinary meeting with the consent of at least two-thirds of the votes recorded at the meeting. The amendments must be approved by the ROS and the Commissioner of Charities before they can be implemented.

Lee noted that the current constitution has served the association well for the last decade but added nonetheless that it will be reviewed "at an appropriate time" to see how it can be further improved.


• Toh Kian Lam, 52, executive director of Local Community Engagement Office at Nanyang Technological University

• Eric Fong, 53, business development director of Siemens PLM Software

• Patricia Kim, 51, senior regional credit and collections manager (Apac) of Medtronic

• Ow Chee Chung, 51, chief executive officer of Kwong Wai Shiu Hospital

• Andrew Tan, 53, managing director of ATT Systems Group

• Bernard Tan, 45, director of Miharu Food's Singapore

• Marcus Tan, 51, chief executive officer of AIQ (an artificial intelligence and computer vision company)

• Terry Tan, 66, managing director of Copytron Technologies and a former STTA deputy president

• Wu Xiaowen, 44, director of Lexton Law Corporation



Win at least three golds at 2022 Commonwealth Games, a medal at 2026 Asian Games, a medal at 2028 Olympic Games


Ensure the right job fit and athlete-centric policies


By establishing an endowment fund for youth development and grassroots table tennis and revamping zonal training centres


By working with groups such as Mendaki and Sinda to encourage more to take up the sport


Clubs must be ordinary members for at least one year before they can be considered for full membership

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 12, 2018, with the headline 'New team aim to halt decline'. Subscribe