‘Shake-up’ at Singapore Athletics imminent: SportSG chief

‘Shake-up’ at Singapore Athletics imminent: SportSG chief
Veronica Shanti Pereira is comforted by loved ones after competing in the SEA Games womens 200m. Photo: Jason Quah/TODAY

‘Shake-up’ at Singapore Athletics imminent: SportSG chief

SINGAPORE — Sport Singapore (SportSG) chief executive officer Lim Teck Yin has vowed to take a hard-line stance in managing the problems that have plagued Singapore Athletics (SA) over the past year.

Internal strife within SA’s executive committee (exco) dominated the headlines just months before the recent SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur (KL), with infighting leading to the association’s decision to call for a snap election that was eventually put off. Its technical director was also involved in a nasty dispute with Margaret Oh, who coaches top female sprinter Shanti Pereira.

It ultimately led to the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) and SportSG stepping in to appoint a committee to take over the management of the SEA Games squad.

The Singapore athletics contingent failed to perform to expectations at the KL Games, only winning two of the 45 gold medals on offer at the biennial competition through marathoner Soh Rui Yong and high jumper Michelle Sng.

With the sport continuing to struggle with its internal issues, and underperforming at the regional Games, Lim said a “shake-up” is needed for track and field.

“Our analysis has shared that in some critical sports like athletics, there are too many medals at stake for us not to embark on a more deliberate plan to get a good share of those medals,” he said.

“Two (gold medals) out of 45 is just giving too much away. There are some difficult conversations in the weeks ahead that we’ll have with SA, because the sport needs to go back to the drawing board.”

When asked if SportSG would withhold funding from SA going forward, Lim said: “We have been quite clear in our agreement with SA that funding is predicated on them putting in place the conditions for success.

“There is a requirement for them to report back on the progress of developing those multi-year plans.”

Lim also delivered a damning assessment of the capabilities of its leaders, as he added: “But we think (this) will be something that the current SA management committee is not in the position to articulate it well, or if they could, will not be able to implement it coherently and cohesively.

“So there are going to be some strong positions that we will have to take with regard to continued funding, and I think a shake-up is on the cards.”

Lim added that the entire athletics ecosystem, including its affialiates and the coaches, have to band together in order for the sport to progress.

SA president Ho Mun Cheong admitted on Tuesday (Sept 12) that change was needed, and that they will work hand-in-hand with SportSG to help athletics get back on its feet.

“It cannot remain status quo…so this might mean changing the management committee, or even the secretariat,” said Ho.

“We’re all volunteers and have no agenda, so of course we will work with SportSG to not only come up with a suitable multi-year plan, but also find ways to improve things in SA for the sake of track and field in Singapore.”