Ng Ser Miang: Representing Singapore a privilege, not birth right
IOC member Ng says marathoner Soh must uphold values as a national athlete
If an athlete doesn't agree to the conditions for the Multi-Million Dollar Award Programme (MAP), then he shouldn't take the prize.
That was the view of International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Ng Ser Miang, who yesterday weighed in on SEA Games marathon champion Soh Rui Yong's reluctance to donate 20 per cent of his $10,000 prize money to Singapore Athletics (SA).
As an individual SEA Games champion, Soh will receive $10,000 under the MAP awards, which provides a cash payout to athletes who win medals at the Olympic, Asian, Commonwealth and SEA Games.
Athletes are required to donate 20 per cent of the MAP awards to their national sports association (NSA) for future training and development.
For the Commonwealth Games, the amount to be donated is 50 per cent.
While Soh acknowledged he had signed a Team Singapore agreement stating he agreed to the mandatory donation, he told The Straits Times last week that he decided to protest as he deemed his scenario an "exceptional case" where the NSA had not helped its athletes.
The 26-year-old felt SA was undeserving of the gesture, following the infighting and controversies that have plagued the association over the past year.
Yesterday, Ng, who sits on the executive board of the IOC, shared a Facebook post about Ashley Liew winning the International Fair Play Committee's Pierre de Coubertin World Fair Play Trophy last September.
Ng added that he was reminded of Liew's sportsmanship after reading about athletes "going to the media fighting for self-interests without regard to the overall good for his sport... (and) forgets it is an honour and privilege and not a birth right to fly the flag of Singapore".
When contacted by The New Paper, the 68-year-old former Singapore Sports Council (now SportSG) chairman said he felt compelled to share his thoughts because national athletes should not lose sight of the "values" they have to represent.
The award is a privilege, not entitlement. If an athlete does not believe in it (or its rules), he can opt out of it.International Olympic Committee member Ng Ser Miang
"Like representing Singapore, it (the MAP award) is a privilege," said Ng.
"There are rules and conditions to the award, and it is not an entitlement.
"The 20 per cent donation to support the NSA has become a tradition and, more importantly, it is a reflection of the values in sports.
"No athlete can achieve what they achieve without the whole ecosystem - including NSAs, SportSG, SNOC, parents, employers, sponsors and Singaporeans in general - and I think it is proper that the athletes should remember that."
Soh's protest has sparked debate about the mandatory donation to the NSAs.
Some have criticised him for challenging a decades-old tradition, while others have lauded him for speaking out and bringing up what they view as a valid argument.
Said Ng, who is also chairman of the Singapore Olympic Foundation: "I will not get into that debate. Everybody is entitled to his view. But the award is a privilege, not entitlement. If an athlete does not believe in it (or its rules), he can opt out of it."
He added: "A gold medallist is not always a champion.
"Being a champion is about more than winning medals. It is about being a role model and showing exemplary conduct."
When contacted, Soh told TNP: "Mr Ng's comments are simply reiterating the rules.
"I agree that the NSA-athlete relationship is important, and that is why I'm taking this stand. This is not about the $2,000, it's about principle. For an NSA that helps and supports their athletes sufficiently, they deserve the 20 per cent.
"I am fighting for a better SA and a better ecosystem that supports athletes. At the moment, many athletes simply get frustrated and leave the sport.
"He should be at least thankful that athletes like me have soldiered on despite inadequate support from my NSA."