SHUTTLERS OFF TO GLASGOW GAMES
After enduring a miserable season last year, there is finally some light at the end of the tunnel for Singapore badminton.
The Republic's shuttlers were among athletes from six sports given the nod by the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) selectors for the 2014 Commonwealth Games, which will be held in Glasgow from July 23 to Aug 3.
Speaking after the selection meeting at the Jalan Besar Stadium yesterday, SNOC secretary general Chris Chan explained: "In the mixed team event (badminton) at the Commonwealth Games, we are among the top-six countries, since the likes of China, South Korea and Japan are not there."
Chan added that the sport has achieved good results at the Games in the past - Singapore won a silver and two bronze medals at the 2010 Games in New Delhi, with Shinta Mulia Sari and Yao Lei just missing out on the gold in a contentious women's doubles final.
Shuttler Li Li made history at the 2002 Manchester Games by winning the women's singles gold medal, the Republic's first win in the sport at the quadrennial Games.
Shuttlers also collected a silver and a bronze at 2006 Melbourne Games.
However, the sport suffered last year, with shuttlers struggling to make their mark at major competitions like the Li-Ning Singapore Open in June and the South-east Asia (SEA) Games in December.
Following the Singapore Open, the Singapore Badminton Association (SBA) launched an internal review, which culminated in the termination of chief singles coach Luan Ching and doubles coach Yoo Yung Sung last month.
When contacted yesterday, SBA chief executive officer Ronnie Lim said: "This is definitely great news for the sport.
"The shuttlers, who are currently away in Germany for competition, will definitely do their best for Singapore."
The shuttlers will do battle in the mixed team event, while the SBA will decide on who will vie for the other badminton events later.
Other than badminton, Singapore's athletes will also do battle in athletics, gymnastics, shooting, swimming and table tennis in Glasgow.
Singapore clinched 11 gold, 11 silver and nine bronze medals at the 2010 Games - with the paddlers winning six of eight events, while the shooters claimed five wins.
Chef de mission and SNOC vice-president Low Teo Ping expects this year's contingent of around 70 athletes to return with a similar haul.
"If you look at what delivered the medals last time, you're looking at shooting, badminton, gymnastics and table tennis; probably it's going to be the same but hopefully a few surprises here and there," said Low.
"We had some good surprises at the SEA Games last year, so I don't see why we can't expect surprises here, too."
Sports like boxing, wrestling, cycling and judo were not selected, but can submit new information next month for an appeals meeting on April 4.
Thereafter, only athletes who have made the qualifying mark - specified by the SNOC as the sixth-placed finish at the previous Games - can be considered for selection, up till June 11.
The SNOC selectors also confirmed three sailing spots - Byte CII for both boys and girls, and the Techno 293 - for the 2nd Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China, from Aug 16 to 28.
Chan added that sports such as table tennis, swimming, athletics, badminton, gymnastics and shooting are still going through qualifying competitions and the final contingent size should be known by June.
A LITTLE MORE TIME FOR A BREAK
Swimmer Tao Li was so drained in 2010 that she gave up competing at the Commonwealth Games in order to do well at the Asian Games.
It worked, as the 24-year-old (right) won the women's 50m butterfly and clinched a silver in the 100m fly in the Asian Games.
At the time, the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi was scheduled in October, while the Guangzhou Asiad followed a month later.
Low Teo Ping, Singapore's chef de mission for this year's Commonwealth Games, believes the Republic's elite athletes can do well in both events this year.
The Commonwealth Games will be held from July 23 to Aug 3 in Glasgow, Scotland, while the Asiad will be hosted in Incheon, South Korea, from Sept 19 to Oct 4.
"I am sure an athlete can peak twice in that space of time," said Low yesterday, after the selection meeting at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
"In 2010, New Delhi and Guangzhou were a bit too close, but this is a technical aspect and we will leave it to the experts."
Six swimming relay teams - the 4x100m free, 4x200m free and 4x100m medley for men and women - have been selected for the 2014 Commonwealth Games, along with individuals Joseph Schooling (100m and 200m fly, 100m IM) and Tao Li (100m fly).
Said Singapore National Olympic Council secretary-general Chris Chan: "Swimming had a leaner team (in 2010) because they were concentrating on the Asian Games and it was back-to-back, and they also knew that it was a tougher field in the Commonwealth Games.
"Now, there are six relay teams and, of course, the team manager has the prerogative to put (the swimmers) in individual events. That's pretty healthy."