Tang is up for a fight
SAA president gives his team's performance an A grade, ahead of next month's election
Upon returning home from a business trip to Bangkok on Tuesday night, Singapore Athletic Association (SAA) president Tang Weng Fei was greeted by news that he would face a challenge at next month's elections.
Former national runner Sng Sze Hiang has stated his intention to run for track and field's top post, and has assembled a team that included two incumbent vice-presidents of the SAA, Loh Chan Pew and Steven Lee, as well as another veteran official, Ho Mun Cheong, to fight for other posts in the management committee.
But Tang is not fazed by the challenge.
At a press conference at his Collyer Quay office yesterday morning, the oil trader shared details of his team's manifesto ahead of the June 23 elections, where the candidate who receives the support of a majority of the 22 SAA affiliate members wins.
Said Tang: "My message (to affiliates) is to judge us on what we've done over the last four years.
"It's also important to look at the long-term renewal of leadership within the SAA."
When asked to rate his team's performance since he assumed leadership in June 2010, Tang said a "seven or eight" out of 10, or an A grade.
He admitted the SAA had not managed the secretariat well, after it had been plagued by spats and resignations over the years.
"That's why I've been thinking: where did we go wrong," he said.
"The mistake we made, I think, was that we relied too much on (senior) ex-athletes with baggage.
"Being self-centred and egoistic - that's why they were champions - there are bound to be differences and conflicts. The only way forward is for people with no baggage to lead."
Tang worked on two solutions to try and remedy the problem.
One: Bring fresh faces into the management committee - like 30-year-old Ron Koh, 32-year-old Jezreel Mok and 27-year-old Lee Yan Lin.
Two: Bring in an individual in a role similar to that of a general manager (GM), which would allow current GM James Wong to focus on marketing and attract sponsors for the association.
It would also allow newly-appointed development and performance chief Asmah Hanim to better focus on the technical aspects of her role.
"I've spoken to Richard (Seow, Sport Singapore chairman) and (Sport Singapore CEO Lim) Teck Yin a couple of times about this," said Tang.
"We discussed this with our exco and they said it's a good idea. At the end of it, they (Sport Singapore) have to decide, but it's a possible option."
He hoped the move to bring in younger members into the management committee would convince the affiliates that the SAA had a leadership renewal plan in place.
Tang believed the SAA had done well under his stewardship in the last four years.
He pointed out that the SAA was one of the 21 national sports associations (49, in total) whose three-year funding plan was approved by Sport Singapore.
He said the association's reserves - from around $600,000 in July 2010 to around $750,000 now - was proof of their financial prudence.
The former national hurdler then revealed his pride over the SAA's online presence, which he said had drawn praise from International Association of Athletics Federations officials.
He disagreed the assertion by former ally Ho that the local scene was in disharmony as he cited cases like that of pole vaulter Rachel Yang (see sidebar).
"It's easy to say. I understand the ground is unhappy. But how many (athletes are unhappy)? A handful... the ground is sweet. The people are training hard," he insisted.
"There will always be athletes and coaches who are unhappy with the association (and) a lot of it boils down to funding issues."
Tang admitted he was "hurt" and "sad" by the defection of Loh, whom he once described as "one of my closest friends".
Insisting he wanted "clean elections", he said his team would not make any comments about their challengers.
"It doesn't matter to me who wins the election. What's most important is that track and field must move forward.
"Let's just put it this way, I wouldn't lose sleep if I lose the election," he asserted.
"But I'm here to do a public service, and I believe there are some things I still have to do, that's why I'm standing for re-election."
President: Tang Weng Fei
Vice-president (Competitions organising): William Wong
Vice-president (Training and selection): C Kunalan
Vice-president (Finance): Jezreel Mok
Honorary secretary: Patrick Pak
Assistant honorary secretary: Mona Ng
Treasurer: Cheng Heng Tan
Chairman (Cross country): Ghana Segaran
Chairman (Race walking): S Govindaraju
Chairman (Officials): Choo Sau Mei
Chairman (Technical & equipment): Ron Koh
Women’s representative: Lee Yan Lin
Statistician: Toh Wei De
President: Sng Sze Hiang
Vice-president (Competitions organising): Loh Chan Pew
Vice-president (Training and selection): Steven Lee
Vice-president (Finance): R Rajandran
Honorary secretary: Ho Mun Cheong
Assistant honorary secretary: G Balasekaran
Treasurer: A Alagirisamy
Chairman (Cross country): Tan Ming Jen
Chairman (Race walking): Dr Leong Lee San
Chairman (Officials): Not listed
Chairman (Technical & equipment): Not listed
Women’s representative: Not listed
Statistician: Not listed
SAA soften stance against Yang
The Singapore Athletic Association (SAA) will not proceed with legal action against national pole vaulter Rachel Yang.
The women's record-holder has been embroiled in a row with the national sports association over a Facebook post she put up last month, which the SAA says was defamatory to its sports development and performance chief, Asmah Hanim.
Even though Yang took the post down after "less than eight hours", the SAA threatened to take legal action against her unless she posted an apology on her Facebook.
The deadline for the apology passed last Friday, while the 32-year-old was in Busan, South Korea, to compete at an athletics meet.
However, at a press conference at his Collyer Quay office yesterday, SAA president Tang Weng Fei said: "We've decided we are not going to take action. We reserve our right but, at the moment, we are not going to do anything.
"We know that financially, they are in a tough (situation). So, on compassionate grounds, we decided to hold on.
"But the press must know what happened. There's no fault on Asmah or the SAA."
C Kunalan, who will stand as vice-president (training and selection) in Tang's team as the oil trader seeks a third term as SAA chief in elections next month, revealed he had tried to speak to David Yeo, Yang's husband and coach, in a bid to resolve the situation.
But Kunalan claimed he was rebuffed.
"All we are asking for is a simple apology and not in the press but on Facebook," said the former national 100m record-holder.
"We don't need to (take legal action).
"All she has to do is say sorry and continue jumping."
But Yang, who set a national best of 3.82m in 2011, is still unhappy.
She insisted that she removed her Facebook posting on Asmah not because she felt she was in the wrong, but because of their friendship, which goes back to their school days.
"He (Tang) said it (not taking legal action) was on compassionate grounds and I find that ridiculous," she said.
"I cannot accept his comments, because he's still implying I'm in the wrong."