Race-walker Sim blames official for poor timing in Japan
The Asian Race Walking Championships in Japan has always given Singapore's Edmund Sim a reason to smile.
In his first race there in 2012, he rewrote the national record in the 20km race walk with a time of 1hr 36min 1sec, beating Jairaj Kumar Jeyabal's 15-year-old previous mark by 20 seconds.
The following year, Sim, the country's top race walker, was on course to set another mark, only to be disqualified for a technical fault. Last year, he clocked another good time of 1:36:58.
This year, though, it all went wrong for Sim. The 31-year-old finished Sunday's race in Nomi in Ishikawa prefecture in a shocking time of 1:51:31.
Sim pointed the finger at veteran coach Chu Seow Beng, 51, the Singapore contingent's team manager and only official in Japan.
Even before the race, Sim claimed Chu, who is Singapore Athletics' (SA) deputy chairman for race walking, had planted seeds of doubt in his head by suggesting the times he had clocked to be in contention for this year's South-east Asia (SEA) Games here in June were outside the qualifying window.
This despite the fact Sim's name had already been on the Singapore National Olympic Council's list of athletes in the first round of the selection process for the Games, released in January.
Then came the incident on Sunday, when Sim alleged Chu insisted he was not able to help man the drinks station for him even though all team managers were handed a vest allowing them to do so.
Subsequently, Sim injured his left foot while fumbling about trying to get his bottle off a low table at around the 4km mark.
A visit to the doctor yesterday morning revealed the injury was a stress-related one, and the civil servant was told he might not be fit enough to compete at the Singapore Open at the end of the month.
"I was very upset," said Sim, who met The New Paper yesterday, hours after returning from Japan.
"In fact, after the race, I cried in my room. I thought about everyone who had helped me and given me support - my family, coaches, the SA - I felt like I had let all of them down."
When contacted yesterday, SA general manager Yazeen Buhari said: "As per our procedures, we will await the team manager's report and review internally before deciding if any course of action is required."
Sim insists he has not had any previous issues with Chu.
"I've known him since I was a kid and I've always respected him for what he achieved as a coach," said Sim.
"All he told me in Japan was that he needed to help the junior walkers. But I don't know what help he was providing to the juniors, because at every lap I saw him just pacing at the finish line."
Sim said he got support from unexpected sources.
"When I passed by the drinks station, the Malaysian coach asked me why there was no-one helping me and offered his help.
"I asked myself: Why are people from the other countries helping me and not my own?. The Indonesian walker, Hendro, who won the 2013 SEA Games gold, looked for me after the race and consoled me.
"We met in 2012, broke our respective national records then and then got disqualified in Japan. So we became good friends."
Sim is coached by former national race walker Ramasamy Tanaball and five-time SEA Games gold medallist K Jayamani, who handle technical and fitness aspects respectively.
Tanaball, 62, said: "It's difficult for me to comment on what happened in Japan because I was not there, but I'm disappointed to know he clocked 1:51 because he is a much better walker than that.
"I'm sad to learn that he got injured and we're not even sure if he can compete in the Singapore Open."
When asked if he was planning to submit a formal report or complaint to SA, Sim said: "Not at this moment. Even if I complain, it'll end up being a case of his (Chu's) word versus mine.
"I'll talk to my coaches first and see what to do. Right now, I want to focus on my training and recovery and try to compete at the Singapore Open."