By Kannan Raj
Joseph Schooling, Yip Pin Xiu and Theresa Goh saved Singapore sports in 2016.
If not for Joseph’s unexpected victory in the 100m butterfly swimming event, Singapore would have returned empty-handed from the quadrennial event.
Even Singapore’s world ranked foreign import table tennis players came up empty, the first time since the 2008 Beijing Olympics when the trio of Feng Tianwei, Wang Yuegu and Li Jiawei picked up a silver in the women’s team event.
Olympic aside, Singapore’s football dived far deeper into the abyss.
Yet another first round exit at the Suzuki Cup where the toothless Lions only picked up a miserable point after a draw with the Philippines meant that Singapore failed to make the semi-finals of the biennial event for the second consecutive time. Singapore’s footballers also shamefully failed to make the semi-finals of the SEA Games in 2015, despite having home ground advantage.
And in December, the latest FIFA rankings showed that Singapore had slipped to 165th in the ranking, way below Myanmar and Philippines. With the Football Association of Singapore set for an election of its office bearers by March 2017, one can only hope that a new team is heralded in by the affiliates to help bring about a new dawn in football.
The Singapore Table Tennis Association also made the news after the Olympics when it announced that it was parting ways with Feng Tianwei. Citing the need for rejuvenation, it was later discovered that Feng had been inciting trouble within the ranks and was also accused of possibly making false claims over the purchase of eggs. It was then announced that Sport Singapore would support her and her quest for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
Government agency Sport Singapore must also be taken to task for its handling of the Singapore Cricket Association’s training facilities. The SCA’s national and junior teams have been using Johor as their home base for training and matches after Sport Singapore ended the SCA’s lease of the Kallang Cricket Field. The Kallang Cricket Field has been the home of the cricketers since 1995. The field was taken over by the government for its own sports programmes like the ActiveSG academies. The SCA was also told by Sport Singapore that they would be able to get access to an alternative training facility in 2020-2021.
The Singapore Floorball Association was also hit by scandal when its own President Sani Mohd Salim was put under investigation for alleged misappropriation of funds. Sani was himself a long-serving staff of Sport Singapore and a former national hockey player.
The sport of athletics continued to be in the news for all the wrong reasons and with national athletes paying for their own overseas training stints, one can only wonder at the debilitating state of the sport.
The Singapore Sports Hub also remains as a major disappointment in a year when the National Stadium was left empty more than it was utilized. This has led to stinging unhappiness among sponsors and suite owners. It will be interesting to see if the Singapore government initiates a change in the way the Singapore Sports Hub is run.
The Rio Olympics live broadcast turnaround and Joseph Schooling’s hard-hitting views of the support system for sports in Singapore must surely be a wake-up call for the Singapore government’s sports administrators.