Trouble in the house of Singapore Athletics... again
Circulating screengrab shows key management figure taking aim at two coaches
Tensions between the warring factions in Singapore Athletics (SA) have emerged in the public sphere again, just over a month after the national sports association withdrew its intention to hold an extraordinary general meeting to re-elect its leadership.
Yesterday, a photo of a Whatsapp group chat for SA's sports development and performance unit was posted on Facebook by former SA general manager Ong Yeok Phee.
The document included messages by SA vice-president (training and selection) Dr G Balasekaran, technical director Volker Herrmann, and SA's senior executive for sports development and performance Shalindran Sathivanesan.
The New Paper also received five other screengrabs of the same group chat, which also contains messages by SA general manager Jaime Cheong and its sports development and performance manager Ong Wan Xin.
Among other messages in the screengrab shared online, Dr Bala wrote: "Margaret needs to get into trouble so we can take action on her."
He was referring to sprinter Shanti Pereira's coach Margaret Oh.
In the string of messages, he also said that evidence should be gathered against Oh and pole vault coach David Yeo, and brought to SA president Ho Mun Cheong for disciplinary action.
“Margaret needs to get into trouble so we can take action on her.”Singapore Athletics’ VP (training and selection) Dr G Balasekaran, on coach Margaret Oh in the group chat
When contacted, Dr Bala confirmed that the screengrab was authentic, and said: "It is a personal team message that has been taken out of context, it is illegally obtained and it's also a breach of privacy."
“Margaret and the president have been creating issues regarding the (SEA Games) 4x100m team and the centralised training with Volker.”Dr Balasekaran, explaining the context of his group-chat message
Asked by TNP what his message on Oh specifically meant, he said: "The context of that is Margaret and the president have been creating issues regarding the (South-east Asia Games) 4x100m team and the centralised training with Volker.
"This is a normal issue, if she (Oh) is not doing things properly, then we look for evidence and we go after her, plain and simple."
Recent media reports raised the possibility of Pereira being dropped from the relay quartet, as the 20-year-old could not confirm her attendance in SA's centralised training camp in Taiwan, just three days after the sprint queen returns from the Asian Athletics Championships in India from July 6-9.
“If I see something wrong, I don’t think it’s right for me to stay silent... I gave them my feedback, I was not creating trouble.”Margaret Oh, when contacted by TNP. She was referring to her doubts over the conduciveness of a training camp in Taiwan
When contacted, Oh said: "I am frightened and worried now, and I am also very stressed.
"I am quite outspoken. If I see something wrong, I don't think it's right for me to stay silent.
"With regard to the Taiwan trip, I felt that the climate in Taiwan would not be conducive. Staying in Singapore at the Sports School, or going to Kuala Lumpur two weeks before the Games, would be better.
"I gave them my feedback, I was not creating trouble."
“Both sides have valid points... but can we all move away from trying to get people into trouble and move towards... helping athletes train and compete well?”SEA Games-bound marathoner Soh Rui Yong
Oh added that she would not be taking any action, but is waiting for SA to respond to her.
Pole vault coach Yeo also had a run-in with Herrmann over the participation of his athlete Cherlin Sia at the recently concluded Thai Open.
Dr Bala alleged that SA president Ho has been instigating these incidents, including the release of the screengrab.
He said: "I have nothing to hide... you can ask Margaret, it's up to her and Shanti (to decide to go to the Asian Championships), how do I decide for them?"Ho laughed off the suggestions when contacted by TNP, and said he has sent the six screengrabs to his management committee to deliberate on the next course of action.
Separately, both Ho and Dr Bala said the release of the screengrab is an unwelcome distraction to the fraternity's preparations for the SEA Games in August in KL, but blamed each other's camp for the distraction.
In response to Ong's Facebook post, SEA Games-bound marathoner Soh Rui Yong wrote: "Not taking a side here - both sides currently have valid points and it's natural to have disagreements.
"But for the love of God, can we all move away from trying to get people into trouble and move towards dedicating our time and energy towards helping athletes train and compete well?
"(It) Would be nice!"