SINGAPORE - For nearly two decades, she was deemed Singapore sport's "Golden Girl". But it appears that hue - from 40 SEA Games gold medals - is still not shiny enough for former swimmer Joscelin Yeo to enter the Singapore Sport Hall of Fame (HOF).
The HOF presently has 58 inductees - many of whom are household names like Joseph Schooling, Tan Howe Liang, Fandi Ahmad and C. Kunalan - but the three-time Sportswoman of the Year Yeo, who called time on her competitive swimming career in 2007, is not one of them.
Yeo's omission sparked debate within the sporting fraternity after it was raised by former journalist and former Singapore Swimming Association vice-president Jose Raymond on social media in January, and again by veteran journalist Godfrey Robert in a column in the Business Times on Feb 29.
In response to queries from The Straits Times, Sport Singapore (SportSG) said on Saturday (March 14) that improvements will be made to the nomination and selection process for a place in the HOF.
Describing Yeo's swimming and service record as "noteworthy", the national agency said it was "heartened to see sustained interest and the lively discussions that have emerged".
It added: "The HOF committee thoroughly evaluates nominated athletes on the merits of their past athletic performance, character and contribution to sporting Singapore.
"Views from sporting and non-sporting fraternity are sought as input to Committee deliberations. The Committee then arrives at a consensus on the athletes' worthiness and timing for induction into the HOF.
"While all deserving athletes will be considered for the HOF inductions, the timing will vary.
"The committee has taken some feedback and will make improvements to the nomination and selection process, particularly with regard to widening the extent of stakeholder or public consultation."
The 2019 HOF committee is chaired by SportSG chairman Kon Yin Tong and comprises 10 members.
They include senior civil servants from the MCCY, which oversees sport, and prominent members of the sports fraternity such as Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) secretary-general Chris Chan, former Olympian Ben Tan who is also an SNOC vice-president, veteran journalist Leonard Thomas, former swimmer Mark Chay and SportSG chief executive Lim Teck Yin. SSI chief Toh Boon Yi functions as the head of secretariat.
Yeo, 40, told ST no one from SportSG had ever explained her absence from the HOF to her, but added: "My goal in competing for Singapore was never to be in the Hall of Fame.
"My goal was always to be the best swimmer I could be for my country, my family, myself.
"The results are a byproduct of that, and if the powers that be feel that it does not meet the standard of being in the hall of fame, that's their call.
"I won't stop giving back to the local swimming community, neither does it or will it hinder me from continuing to work with SportSG or the SNOC to better the swimming community."
The HOF was established in 1985 to honour Singapore's top athletes "who have excelled in their sporting performances and instilled national pride among Singaporeans", said the SportSG in 2017.
In its reply to ST, SportSG explained that there are two pathways to the HOF.
The first is through success at major Games and contributions to the sport - gold medallists at Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and World Championship level who fulfil eight years of service to the sport, are considered. Olympic medallists are exempt from this requirement.
In addition to sporting achievements, the HOF committee will also assess the suitability of candidates as all-rounded athletes and role models.
The second pathway is if an athlete achieves "icon" status, described as "a role model in character and values, an inspiration to Singaporeans and capture the imagination of the nation". SportSG named former sprinter Kunalan and former football star Fandi as examples.
Yeo won a total of 55 medals at the SEA Games, making her the most bemedalled athlete at the biennial regional multi-sport competition, and also clinched bronzes at the 1994 and 2002 Asian Games.