In response to the debate on the omission of former national swimmer Joscelin Yeo’s name in the Singapore’s Sport Hall of Fame (HOF) recently, Sport Singapore (SportSG) said it will improve its nomination and selection process for a place in the HOF, indicating Yeo’s swimming and service record as “noteworthy”.
The HOF was built to honour the nation’s top athletes who have contributed and represented the nation for years. It has 58 inductees including swimmers Patricia Chan and Joseph Schooling, sprinter C.Kunalan, and footballer Fandi Ahmad since its establishment in 1985.
Despite Ms Yeo’s achievements in winning 40 gold medals at the Southeast Asia (SEA) Games in her 17-year swimming career and was named Sportswoman of the Year in 1993, 1995, and 1999, her name was not included in the HOF. This has sparked a debate within the sporting fraternity.
Former Singapore Swimming Association (SSA) vice president Jose Raymond was first to raise the issue on Facebook on 15 January, citing Ms Yeo’s contributions in the nation’s swimming fraternity should have earned her a place in the HOF.
“As a journalist, I watched Joscelin win gold after gold for Singapore, sometimes in the face of fierce personal adversity,” he noted. “That she is still not in the Sport Hall of Fame somewhat baffles.”
The issue was later brought up again by veteran journalist Godfrey Robert in a column in the Business Times on 29 February, which he remarked that Ms Yeo should be an easy pick to go into the HOF due to her impressive credentials.
“Her omission is baffling, to say the least.,” he asserted. “It would be good for Sport Singapore – the government’s lead sports agency under the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth – to enlighten us, and the SNOC and SSA should also put in a strong word for Yeo too.”
Following the debate, SportSG said that it will improve the nomination and selection process for a place in the HOF particularly to widen the extent of stakeholder or public consultation, adding that it was “heartened to see the sustained interest and the lively discussions that have emerged”, The Straits Times reported.
According to SportSG, nominated athletes will be evaluated thoroughly on the merits of their past athletic performance, character, and contribution to sporting the nation.
“Views from sporting and non-sporting fraternity are sought as input to Committee deliberations,” SportSG noted. “The Committee then arrives at a consensus on the athletes’ worthiness and timing for induction into the HOF.”
“While all deserving athletes will be considered for the HOF inductions, the timing will vary,” it added.
SportSG also highlighted the two pathways to enter the HOF. The first is by winning at major Games and contributions to the sport – gold medallists at Asian Games, Commonwealth Games, and World Championship level who fulfil eight years of service to the sport are considered. While Olympic medallists are exempted from this requirement.
The HOF committee will also assess the suitability of candidates as all-rounded athletes and role models.
The second pathway is whether an athlete has attained “icon” status, described as “a role model in character and values”, and instilled national pride among Singaporeans.
Meanwhile, Ms Yeo seems to be nonchalant of the omission of her name in the HOF as her goal in competing for Singapore was never to be in the HOF.
“My goal was always to be the best swimmer I could be for my country, my family, myself,” she said. “The results are a byproduct of that, and if the powers that be feel that it does not meet the standard of being in the hall of fame, that’s their call.”
She hinted that the omission of her name in the HOF will not hinder her from continuing to work with SportSG or the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC).