Table tennis: STTA president Ellen Lee to run for third term because of 'unfinished work'

President since 2014 reiterates support for local-born paddlers, who sweep annual player awards

Ellen Lee will face a contest from former national youth paddler Toh Kian Lam for the post of Singapore Table Tennis Association president this year.
Ellen Lee will face a contest from former national youth paddler Toh Kian Lam for the post of Singapore Table Tennis Association president this year.

For 25 minutes last night, Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA) president Ellen Lee spoke to a 150-strong crowd about achievements and initiatives introduced last year as well as programmes on the launchpad.

On the sidelines of the STTA's annual awards night at Hotel Miramar, the 60-year-old then told The Straits Times that she intends to contest a third two-year term.

The STTA must call for a biennial general meeting by Sept 30.

"Yes, I will definitely be staying on," said the former MP, who was elected unopposed in 2014 to replace Lee Bee Wah. She retained her post unopposed in 2016.

"We have been planning way ahead, and we have to because there are details involved and people to speak to. This is not something that you can just wake up and do. It is a long-term plan and there is still unfinished work. I want to be able to carry through all this work."

The STTA is one of Singapore's most successful national sports associations (NSA). With a silver and two bronzes since Beijing 2008, no NSA has delivered more Olympic medals.

The STTA's top post has not faced a contest in the last 10 years. But Lee will face a challenge this year from former national youth paddler Toh Kian Lam. The 51-year-old told ST last month of his intention to form a team to challenge the incumbent management.

"A healthy contest will be good for the sport," said Toh, who held several positions at Singapore Sports Council from 2003-2008, including chief of high performance, before the national sports agency was renamed Sport Singapore.




    STTA Player of the Year 
    Pang Xuejie, 25 (second from left)

    STTA Junior Player of the Year
    Koen Pang, 15 (third from left)

    STTA Hopes Player of the Year 
    Zhou Jingyi, 12 (left)

    High performance training support grant 
    Goi Ruixuan, 17

Among the plans Lee aims to roll out is a schools league, which would provide additional opportunities for secondary school teams that do not progress beyond the zonal levels, as well as schools that do not have teams.

The lawyer said: "When some of the young paddlers go to secondary school, they may not be able to follow up on their passion and interest in the sport because the support system is lacking in their school for a variety of reasons. We are still working out the details... but with this league, we most probably will be able to identify more good table tennis players and give them the proper training."

Local-born paddlers swept all the player accolades at the eighth edition of the annual awards.

Pang Xuejie, 25, was named the Player of the Year after he won the men's doubles gold, and clinched silvers in the men's team and mixed doubles events at the 2017 SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur.

He said: "I am very happy to win this award for the first time. It is very nice of the STTA to give me this recognition. 2017 was a very good year for me in terms of results and performances, and it gives me more confidence going forward.

"I will continue to work hard and focus on the upcoming Commonwealth Games."

Koen Pang, 15, received the Junior Player of the Year gong, while Zhou Jingyi, 12, was the recipient of the inaugural Hopes Player of the Year award.

The STTA also handed out a special high performance training support grant, worth $8,200 over two years, to Goi Rui Xuan.

At the start of the year, the 17-year-old decided to put her studies on hold for two years to train full-time, with the aim of qualifying for this year's Youth Olympic Games and next year's SEA Games.

The awards were done "differently this year", according to Lee.

She said: "The emphasis is very much on the fact that we are very keen and very serious when we say we want to develop local talent, and one way of doing so is to encourage them when they have done their best, otherwise there is no opportunity to do so.

"Local-born players have been doing well and we think it's appropriate to give them the recognition, and also to send a message to Singaporeans that we do support local-born talent."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 16, 2018, with the headline 'STTA chief reveals plan to stand for third term'. Subscribe