Athletics: Officials say Singapore Athletics needs to sort out issues

Shanti Pereira, defending her 200m title from the 2015 Singapore SEA Games, crossing the finish line in third place in August in Kuala Lumpur. She admitted afterwards that she had been affected by the discord in the athletics association.
Shanti Pereira, defending her 200m title from the 2015 Singapore SEA Games, crossing the finish line in third place in August in Kuala Lumpur. She admitted afterwards that she had been affected by the discord in the athletics association.ST FILE PHOTO

The "dysfunctional" squabbling leadership at Singapore Athletics (SA) have been urged to resolve their differences.

In the latest incident to tar track and field, national athletes were left confused on Tuesday regarding the status of their subsidy programme, The New Paper reported yesterday.

Singapore Sports Institute (SSI) chief Toh Boon Yi told The Straits Times yesterday: "The athletics community and leadership at SA need to resolve their differences in order for their sport to progress. We will seek clarification with SA on their intention and plans.

"The continuation of public funding will depend on whether there is confidence that those plans can be implemented effectively."

The SSI is a department of national sports governing body Sport Singapore.

The SA's internal carding system - which allocates athletes up to $1,200 per month based on various criteria - had expired last month without the necessary follow-up.

This arose owing to a lack of communication among the management committee members, with SA president Ho Mun Cheong and SA's vice-president of training and selection Govindasamy Balasekaran leading the divided camps.

Former SA president Tang Weng Fei, who helmed the association from 2004 to 2006, and 2010 to last year, expressed dismay that the discord among officials has directly affected athletes.

"Recent developments saddened me as internal bickering has turned SA into a dysfunctional NSA (national sports association)," he added.

Tang, 63, a former national hurdler, is considering challenging for the top post again next year.

Retired thrower James Wong said the current SA leadership had to "look (themselves) in the mirror and ask if (they) are doing the right thing".

The former SA general manager added: "You asked people to vote you in because you want to help the sport ... the question is whether you have done this, and if you're not doing the right thing, then fix yourself."

SEA Games high jump champion Michelle Sng called for clarification on the funding. The next tranche of payment is due in December or January. She said: "Everyone's just asking questions to find out if it's because they haven't released the information yet or because (carding) has ceased indefinitely, so everyone just wants to know what's going on for next season."

SA has been plagued by infighting over the past year. One of these disagreements - between technical director Volker Herrmann and Shanti Pereira's coach Margaret Oh - had led to the sprinter's place in the SEA Games 4x100m relay team being in jeopardy. Shanti admitted after the August SEA Games that she had been affected by the dispute.

Two-time Olympian C. Kunalan, who served as SA's vice-president (training and selection) from 2010 to 2016, believes these issues arose because the administrators were unwilling to communicate.

"I'm just sad that they fell out ... I think they should all look at one another, shake hands and decide if they can work together or not," said the 74-year-old former national sprinter.

Kunalan added: "If you really love athletics and you feel you can contribute, then shake hands and contribute, that's the simplest.

"Otherwise then your expertise is wasted and you feel angry, what's the point of being in sports?"

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 13, 2017, with the headline 'Officials say track body must sort out disputes'. Print Edition | Subscribe