Lacks eco-system for sports? Something wrong with The Online Citizen (TOC)’s comprehension? Chose not to give correct context in their long FB caption. Firstly, since when Mr Lim is considered as view of the “Govt”? Secondly, Mr Lim mentioned, “The world’s best gravitate to US colleges not just in swimming, but a range of other sports. They offer a world-class environment where athletes there are their future competitors.”
Mr Lim is not talking about physical infrastructure we have. He is talking about the level and amount of competition we have. There are not a lot of sports people in Singapore to provide our althetes good competitions, for sparring to improve, etc.
Phenomenal year for Singapore sports, but ‘more work to be done’ —
It has certainly been a season to remember for Singapore sports, in a landmark year marked by two historic achievements at the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. First there was Joseph Schooling’s record-smashing Olympic gold, before para-athletes Yip Pin Xiu and Theresa Goh made it another record haul at the Paralympics with two gold medals and a bronze in swimming.
And as the year comes to a close, TODAY’s Low Lin Fhoong ([email protected]) talks to Sport Singapore (SportSG) CEO Lim Teck Yin to get his thoughts on Team Singapore’s success, how to build on it for the future, as well as the highs and lows of the sporting year.
WHAT WERE THE HIGHS?
It was dubbed the “Schooling effect”, as golden boy Schooling’s whirlwind tour after the Rio Olympics sparked euphoria and pandemonium around the island, with many Singaporeans clamouring for a glimpse of their hero.
The Paralympians also got a special Ferrari-motorcade parade after the Games, with fans and supporters turning out to cheer on the athletes.
It is an effect that Sport Singapore is keen to build on, as the national sports governing body looks to beef up three areas: Helping more athletes achieve success on the international stage, rallying Singaporeans in support of national athletes, and getting more people out of their homes and offices to keep fit and play sports.
On the elite front, SportSG is aiming to level up its high-performance system and support. “We have to sharpen our high-performance system … the lessons we learnt are that we have to bring more coaches on board, and of the value of sports science,” said Lim.
Schooling had blossomed in the United States after moving to Bolles School to study and train there in his teen years, and more could soon follow suit if Singapore puts the right pathways in place.
Added Lim: “The world’s best gravitate to US colleges not just in swimming, but a range of other sports. They offer a world-class environment where the athletes there are their future competitors.
“We can have world-class coaches here, but we may not have the ecosystem to attract the world’s best. We must be enlightened enough to place athletes there (in the US), and the important thing is to develop the capability to place our athletes there.”
WHAT WERE THE LOWS?
Amid the highs of the 2016 season, Singapore sports was also rocked by a controversy involving its top-ranked table tennis player Feng Tianwei, after the three-time Olympic medallist was axed by the Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA). While the national sports association (NSA) had cited the need for rejuvenation, subsequent reports said that the world No 6 paddler was let go after disagreements over prize money, reimbursement claims for food and disrespect of authority.
The sacking of Singapore’s most decorated Olympian prompted an outcry from the fraternity and fans, and Feng vowed to carry on and compete at the 2020 Olympic Games.
In the case of Feng, Lim said SportSG will continue to support her in her competitive pursuits. “In the case of the STTA, they are developing the future generation of players, while availing themselves to Feng Tianwei who is serious about representing Singapore,” he said.
“She was interested to continue and sustain herself as a top, world-class table tennis player, she has many fans out there and is still an inspiration to many. That is something we still want to encourage.”
A number of sports also ran into issues this year, with the Singapore Floorball Association (SFA) hit by financial problems as its president Sani Mohamed Salim was put under investigation for alleged misappropriation of funds. Other sports such as shooting, athletics and karate saw in-fighting among its fraternities, with the most recent news of the Singapore Shooting Association’s decision to expel the Singapore Rifle Association sending shockwaves through the community.
Noting that all NSAs are different, Lim stressed that the incidents were not an indication that the associations were poorly run.
He added: “Sometimes when NSAs find themselves in a conflict situation, I hope they will resolve it through mediation, and where they are unable to, I hope all parties can seek a swift resolution so that the sport and people can move on.”
While transforming Singapore into a truly sporting nation is still a work in progress, Lim said the signs are encouraging. In August this year, its inaugural GetActive! Singapore National Day Celebrations saw a sign-up of 500,000 people, and ActiveSG membership has grown to more than 1.1 million since its launch in April 2014.
On the topic of sports participation, a 2013 report by Eurobarometer indicated that 55 per cent of Singaporeans and permanent residents participated in sports at least once a week, with the statistics comparable to that of countries such as Luxembourg (54 per cent) and the Netherlands (58), while the United Kingdom clocked in at 46 per cent.
According to SportSG, 32 per cent of the people surveyed in 1992 participated in sports at least once a week, with the percentage rising to over 50 per cent in 2016.
Lim is positive the numbers will continue to rise. “If we look at the trends over time, after a few years of fluctuation we are hitting above the 50 percentile. In the next five years, we should be able to hit 60 confidently,” he said.
The launch of its ActiveSG academies and clubs this year has also proven to be a hit. The ActiveSG Football Academy, in its inaugural year, now has 500 committed participants, with leagues and competitions in the works.
The ActiveSG academy and clubs will also expand its roster from four to 25 sports and activities over the next five years. Lim revealed that one segment would be focused on seniors, with a range of activities and outdoor adventures designed for older participants.
While sports spectatorship continues to develop, with marquee events such as the inaugural HSBC Singapore Rugby Sevens proving to be a hit, others like the Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix and the WTA Finals Singapore — which are in their ninth and third editions here — suffered a dip in fan attendance.
Noting that the absence of fan favourites Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova had influenced turnout, Lim said more work needs to be done to draw fans to the WTA Finals.
“It’s something interesting to examine more closely and see where the partners could have done better,” he told TODAY. “I would like to see more work done in engaging fans.”