SEA Games: Athletics, football taken to task but there's praise for rest of Team Singapore's 'great outing'

Quah Zheng Wen was the most bemedalled athlete of the Games with six gold and two silver medals, earning him the biennial event's Most Valuable Player (MVP) award.
Quah Zheng Wen was the most bemedalled athlete of the Games with six gold and two silver medals, earning him the biennial event's Most Valuable Player (MVP) award.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

CLARK - Singapore Athletics has come under fire following a dismal outing at the 30th SEA Games and reports of discord within the squad.

In its post-mortem of the 659-strong contingent's performance on Wednesday (Dec 11), Richard Gordon, head of high performance and athlete life at the Singapore Sport Institute (SSI), said: "Swimming and athletics form the two core sports in the SEA Games programme.

"For Singapore to remain competitive in the overall medal tally, we need to put ourselves in a position to be competitive in the athletics programme where there are at least 40 gold medals up for grabs.

"Singapore Athletics and the athletics fraternity have a role to play in ceasing the in-fighting to focus on the athletes. If this culture persists, progress is challenging."

The track and field contingent brought in three bronzes this time, down from the two gold, two silver and four bronze show from 2017.

In contrast, swimming was the top performer among the 48 sports that Team Singapore competed in, accounting for 23 of the contingent's 53 gold medals, particularly with up-and-coming young swimmers shining on the regional stage.

Quah Zheng Wen was the most bemedalled athlete of the Games with six gold and two silver medals, earning him the biennial event's Most Valuable Player (MVP) award.

At the press conference, the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) said that the 2019 edition marks the third consecutive SEA Games where Singapore's athletes had achieved more than 50 gold medals, surpassing the 900th gold-medal mark in the Philippines. They will also return home with 46 silver and 68 bronze medals.

Fifty-six per cent of the contingent, or 366 athletes, and seven sports (beach handball, underwater hockey, e-sports, surfing, sambo, kurash and skateboard) made their debut at the SEA Games. Out of 167 medals attained by Team Singapore, 51 were achieved by the debutants.

Fifteen Games records were also broken.

 
 

Sports like swimming, fencing, ice skating and golf earned praise for their performances while football - which made the headlines following news that nearly half the squad of 20 had broken curfew during the tournament - also came in for criticism.

The SNOC and SSI also noted the "erratic" performances of team sports such as water polo, where the men's team were beaten to gold for the first time since 1965, and the table tennis team, who lost two doubles titles and won two out of the four golds on offer.

Niche and lesser-known sports such as underwater hockey, which won all four gold medals on offer, kurash and jiu-jitsu, were highlighted for their performances.

 
 

Juliana Seow, chef de mission for Team Singapore at the Games, said: "Overall, Team Singapore had a great outing. Our athletes displayed grit and persevered in competition among the region's best.

"Even the typhoon (Kammuri) wasn't able to dampen the strong team spirit our contingent displayed. Team Singapore's results show plenty of promise, and hopefully, the national sports associations will continue to ride on this positive momentum."