Changes in store for STTA
After a tumultuous year capped by CPIB probe on Li Hu, call goes out for player rejuvenation
Last October, Singapore's top paddlers Feng Tianwei and Yu Mengyu fell out with then national women's table tennis coach Jing Junhong.
The Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA) eventually re-designated Jing as chief coach of youth development and appointed Liu Jiayi as women's coach. He was later replaced by Chen Zhibin.
At the Olympics in August, the women's team failed to return from Rio with a medal - after successes in Beijing 2008 and London 2012 – while only Gao Ning featured in the men's competition.
Rumours soon swirled that the players were unhappy with the set-up at the STTA.
On Wednesday, officers from the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau visited the STTA headquarters in Toa Payoh to investigate an alleged bribery involving Singapore men's No. 2 Li Hu.
Naturally, as one of the most successful national sports associations (NSA), there is concern over the future of Singapore table tennis, with the South-east Asia (SEA) Games looming next year and the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games in 2018. Longer term, the STTA needs to prepare for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
STTA president Ellen Lee told The New Paper in August that a review will be conducted and hinted that there could be changes as they bid to regain a medal at the Olympics.TNP also understands that the NSA has held discussions with various stakeholders like Sport Singapore and will act on recommendations which should be revealed next week.
Low Teo Ping, Singapore's chef de mission (CDM) for the Rio Olympics, feels there is a need to address the succession plan, with world No. 6 Feng having turned 30, and male paddlers Gao and Yang Zi aged 34 and 32, respectively.
He said: "There is a need to look at both the men and women's teams in terms of rejuvenation, as with any sport, so as to prevent a gap in succession."
Nicholas Fang, co-CDM of Team Singapore at last year's SEA Games, believes table tennis is well-equipped to bounce back, based on the sport's track record.
"This is a sport with proven systems, infrastructure and human resource to put up world-class performances," he said.
"With one world title and three Olympic medals, they have shown it's not a one-off or a fluke."They have also expressed their long-term view of developing homegrown talent which is sustainable in the long run, but we must understand that there are no guarantees of a straight-line progression in sports. It also depends on form and development of other countries.
"But, table tennis has grown to be one of our core sports which has shown it has what it takes to deliver.
"There may have been recent challenges for them to overcome but, in sports, there's always a chance for redemption and I believe the STTA will continue to work very hard to continue its success.
"Another local sports administrator, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that the recent incidents indicate there are management issues that need to be nipped in the bud if the sport is to move on.
"Clearly, there are unhappy players in the team for whatever reasons, and that is going to have an effect on their performances," he said.
"While player power is undesirable and no one is indispensable, it is up to the STTA to control the situation and get its house in order.
"A lot of hard work has been put in by different stakeholders to get the sport to where it is, so I hope the relevant authorities are able to act swiftly and make the right decisions to move the sport forward."
In sports, there’s always a chance for redemption and I believe the STTA will continue to work very hard to continue its success.
– Nicholas Fang (above)