Strength in diversity, united for athletics

Tang Weng Fei (seated) announcing his team at the Intercontinental Hotel Bugis yesterday.
Tang Weng Fei (seated) announcing his team at the Intercontinental Hotel Bugis yesterday.ST PHOTO:E LIM YAOHUI

Former SA chief Tang confident his team can revive the sport if voted in

They may come from different backgrounds, but former Singapore Athletics (SA) president Tang Weng Fei and his team believe that, united by their passion for sport, they are the right people to lead the national sports association.

The 64-year-old oil trader unveiled his slate of eight (see box) for the upcoming election yesterday at the Intercontinental Hotel Bugis.

Decked out in smart outfits, the team engaged each other in light-hearted banter before the start of the press conference, which was attended by SA's vice-patrons Victor Khoo and Kesavan Soon.

"Today, you see before you a brand-new team, selected based on their complementary set of skills, each armed with new ideas and fresh perspectives for this new chapter of SA," said Tang, a former national hurdler who was SA president from 2004-2006 and 2010-2016.

"Everyone brings something so different, yet equally important to the table - all for the growth and betterment of the sport.

"More importantly, each member has heart and passion for SA, ready to come and build a stronger foundation for a better tomorrow for track and field in Singapore."

The biennial election is scheduled for the association's annual general meeting.

  • TEAM TANG WENG FEI

  • From left :

  • KENNY LIM

    Serial entrepreneur

  • S. GOVINDARAJU

    Lawyer and SA's former chairman of officials

  • MALIK ALJUNIED

    Deputy director at Sport Singapore

  • ANG PENG SIONG

    Former swimmer and Olympian

  • BELINDA FOO

    Music lecturer and former national squash player

  • SHEENA HU

    Senior manager and former schools athlete

  • POH SENG SONG

    Former sprinter and Olympian

This will be at the end of next month if the changes to its constitution - which the management committee endorsed at an extraordinary general meeting on Tuesday - are approved by the Registry of Societies.

One key change involves whittling down the size of the management committee from 26 to 11, with nine elected members.

Tang had wanted SA's chairman of cross-country and road running Ghana Segaran to be the ninth member of his team, but the latter is ineligible as he has served the maximum of four two-year terms.

While looking for a suitable ninth member, Tang stressed the diversity in his team will bring fresh ideas and perspectives that the SA needs.

Former national swimmer Ang Peng Siong, 55, believes his experience in swimming can contribute to improving the athletics scene.

Referring to swimming's success, the two-time Olympian said: "It took time to cultivate that change.

" I think the important ingredient is that there are like-minded people who came together and put their energy and resources to help engineer the change.

"I think that is critical in any successful pathways that we want to initiate and that's where I'm coming from. I think Singapore athletics has that potential."

The team's top priority is regaining the confidence of the fraternity, which has been plagued with conflict over the past two years.

Col (NS) Malik Aljunied, a deputy director at Sport Singapore, said the priority will "always be athlete-centric", adding: "Of course there's a need to win the trust and get the confidence of the fraternity back.

"One of the ways to do this is to leave the past where it belongs - we want to look forward to the future and build relationships, that's the most important.

"The other thing we are looking at is a concrete code of conduct.

"Everybody needs to understand the expectations of the whole ecosystem, so we're working on a very comprehensive code of conduct to guide everybody along so that we're headed in the right direction."

Tang acknowledged that the association has had a troubled couple of years, but stressed while his team will consider the past, they will not dwell on it.

"Whether the incumbent team are good or bad is irrelevant, the important thing is they are volunteers and have their own style of leadership," he said.

"Perhaps their best is not good enough, but we learn from the mistakes they make and one of the key problems was a lack of teamwork."

Belinda Foo, a former national squash player, agreed that teamwork is key to success.

The 53-year-old, a music lecturer at Laselle College of the Arts, said: "As an educator, teaching and education (involve) teamwork, so what I can offer to the association is not just a fresh perspective, but I will also be a great team player."

Tang said that he intends to start engaging with the affiliates and introducing his team members to them.

Urging the SA's 21 affiliates to vote his entire team in, he added: "This is why I insist all of us here have to (make) teamwork the emphasis.

"We're not going to emphasise what happened (in the past).

"But we learn from it and we are going to move forward and bring SA to greater heights."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 23, 2018, with the headline 'Strength in diversity, united for athletics'. Print Edition | Subscribe