Phua: Changes are a must
Aquatics body presidential candidate Phua says changes are needed to take sport forward
We cannot be satisfied with the status quo.
That's the message Singapore Swimming Association (SSA) presidential candidate Jessie Phua had, as she unveiled her team at the Coleman College at Bukit Merah yesterday afternoon.
Phua, the president of the Singapore Bowling Federation (SBF), and spoke passionately for more than an hour on her plans to move the sport forward.
The 59-year-old needs to achieve a mandate from the SSA's 34 affiliates at the elections tomorrow night, to win.
Asked why she felt she needed to step in, when swimming still produces results - it mined 30 medals, 11 of them gold, at last December's South-east Asia (SEA) Games in Myanmar - she retorted: "Are you satisfied with okay?
"That's the question we asked ourselves... Sport has changed over the years. The bar has been raised. Why do you not want to work hard to stay ahead of the curve?"
She added that "the writing was on the wall" in Myanmar, after some close shaves in events Singapore traditionally won at a canter.
"When is the right time (for change)? When the one accustomed to being chased, has to do the chasing?
"We don't want to panic. Let's focus on what to do right," said the former NMP and FIQ president.
"Whichever team come in on Friday, one message has run clear throughout these last few weeks: Change is abound, make no mistake about it.
"Because status quo won't do."
Said Eugene Tan, who is running as secretary general: "When I previously served on the association (as assistant secretary general) about 10 years ago, I was stunned that most swimmers were just aiming (to win at) the SEA Games.
"Now, 10 years on, my sensing is that things haven't changed."
Phua brushed aside questions about her suitability to lead the SSA.
One suggestion is that, as head of the SBF, she will not be able to guide SSA to the best of her ability.
But she said: "I would not dare to even throw my hat into the ring if I wasn't confident (of leading the SSA well).
"And part of the reason I am so confident is that I have such an awesome team with me."
She added that bowling and swimming are "poles apart" and did not foresee any conflict of interest, although she assured that Tan would "crack the whip" and make sure the "checks and balances are in place".
Tan felt that Phua can bring new ideas into swimming, and said: "Sport in Singapore has become very insular.
"If we can bring in people with new perspectives and without baggage or a need to prove anything, there is hope for this sport to move forward. We lack that cross-fertilisation of ideas."
Another criticism levelled at Phua is that she has not been part of the swimming fraternity.
Her election opponent, SSA secretary general Lee Kok Choy, has been involved with aquatics here for many years, and helped revive diving.
But she said: "Before I was known as Jessie Phua, I was known as (ex-national swimmer) Phua Shu Yan's mother.
"I spent thousands of hours by the pool. So, to suddenly say I'm alien (to swimming) and from another planet, I'm most surprised.
"My first introduction to competitive sport was swimming. So I don't know why I'm branded as a total outsider.
"If there's one group of people most emotionally attached to swimming, it would be the swimming mums."
Phua added that her unique position as the parent of a former national swimmer allows her to understand the difficulties of swimmers better than most.
She said many of her team's plans, if elected, are centred around "foundation-building" and providing a robust support system for athletes.
Her team, which also include former Olympians Mark Chay and Gerald Koh, also spoke about changes in areas such as coaches' education, which they hoped to make to the current set-up.
Phua declined to comment on Lee's line-up, which he labels a "dream team" and includes heavyweights such as Singapore Sports Hub chief operating officer Oon Jin Teik.
She stressed she did not want to make SSA's elections to be "about Team A versus Team B", and Tan added that there was no "takeover intent".
"The fraternity, for the first time in a very long time, has a choice," said Tan.
"And it's a choice I think they'll be happy to exercise on Friday.
"Many of us, regardless of whether we win or lose, will be happy to help in whatever way we can."
Said Phua: "In a nutshell, what you have before you is a very sincere, earnest and able team.
"We believe we have a strong and robust development programme to help build capabilities across all segments of aquatics in Singapore.
"We are mindful that this must be an organisation that is caring and inclusive... and of course, we are going to ensure that integrity and credibility are our two foundational pillars."
LEE KOK CHOY'S TEAM
President: Lee Kok Choy
Secretary general: Oon Jin Teik
Vice-president (swimming): Joscelin Yeo
Vice-president (water polo): Samuel Wong
Vice-president (diving): William Lee
Vice-president (finance): Jose Raymond
Treasurer: Sylvia Peh
Assistant secretary general (swimming): Ang Peng Wee
Assistant secretary general (water polo): Lau Chok Yee Jerome
JESSIE PHUA'S TEAM
President: Jessie Phua
Secretary general: Eugene Tan
Vice-president (swimming): Mark Chay
Vice-president (water polo): Samson Tan
Vice-president (diving): No candidate
Vice-president (finance): Gerald Koh
Treasurer: May Schooling
Assistant secretary general (swimming): Shaun Lee
Assistant secretary general (water polo): Lau Kum Weng