SINGAPORE – From public accusations and counter-accusations between members of the Singapore Athletics (SA) management committee, to a leaked screenshot of a private Whatsapp group chat message, the saga surrounding national sprinter Shanti Pereira and her involvement in July’s centralised training camp in Taiwan has dominated the headlines this past week and caused division and unhappiness within the local athletics fraternity.
And Sport Singapore (SportSG) chief executive officer Lim Teck Yin has had enough.
In a strongly worded statement released to the media on Monday evening (June 19), the head of Singapore’s governing body for sports expressed his unhappiness with the recent events that have transpired, and issued a stern reminder to the parties involved in the saga to put the needs of country and athletes first, especially with the South-east Asian Games just around the corner in Kuala Lumpur, in August.
Said Lim: “The interests of the country and athlete should be placed above all else.
“It is therefore disappointing that continuing distrust and discord in the team leading Singapore Athletics is hurting the sport.
“We urge all parties to come to the table, put aside their personal differences and work professionally towards the common objective of preparing our athletes to be in the best position to perform at the upcoming SEA Games.”
TODAY reported last week that SA technical director Volker Hermann had warned Pereira that she would be excluded from the women’s 4x100m relay team for the SEA Games if she did not participate in next month’s training camp.
Pereira’s coach Margaret Oh however, is unwilling for her charge to head to Taiwan as she believes that Taiwan’s climate is too different from that of KL.
Oh also questioned the timing of the camp, claiming that it was being held too close to the Games.
Over the weekend, a screenshot of a Whatsapp group message between SA vice-president (training and selection) Govindasamy Balasekaran and the national sports association’s secretariat staff was then circulated on Facebook by former SA chief executive officer Ong Yeok Phee.
In the message, Balasekaran wrote: “Just get good evidence so we can give it back to P (president Ho Mun Cheong). And force him to get disciplinary action on Margaret and David (Yeo, pole vaulter Rachel Yang’s coach). He will then shut up as they are his favourites.
“...Margaret needs to get into trouble so we can take action on her.”
When contacted by TODAY, Balasekaran said that the group chat messages had been “illegally obtained” and “taken out of context” and blamed Ho for it.
According to the vice-president, Ho had disseminated the message to SA’s management committee (MC) on Sunday.
“This was illegally obtained...it was posted on Facebook and taken out of context,” said Balasekaran, who is an associate professor and the head of physical education and sports science at the National Institute of Education.
“Mr Ng Ser Miang (International Olympic Committee member) told us to focus on the SEA Games. But is he (Ho) doing it? Now he’s illegally obtained this and sent it to the media and the MC. This message is private and this is a breach of privacy.
“Since he took office, he has been creating fights...he’s not fit to be a leader.
When contacted by TODAY on Sunday, a distressed Oh said: “I’m very stressed over this incident. This is getting too personal. I dared to speak out, so am I doing something wrong?
“I’m speaking up for the athletes, why am I being targeted?
“Why does the secretariat want to get involved? They should be helping out, not giving us problems.”
Both Yeo and Yang were previously involved in a dispute with Hermann over the participation of youth athlete Cherlin Sia at last week’s Thailand Open.
Yeo and Yang had asked for Cherlin, a youth vaulter, to take part in the competition in order to try and qualify for the SEA Games, but Hermann eventually turned their request down.