S'pore Athletics boss Tang Weng Fei to review Masters athletes' appeal
Their appeal to SA chief Tang states 'serious concerns' over SMA's qualifying marks and selection criteria
Some of Singapore's veteran athletes are up in arms over "serious concerns" at the way the Masters community are being managed here - sparking a petition and an e-mail being sent to Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu, calling for change.
The furore has been targeted at the Singapore Masters Athletics (SMA) - the governing body for athletes aged 35 and above.
An appeal letter directed to Singapore Athletics (SA) president Tang Weng Fei, seen by The New Paper and signed by several athletes in the Masters community, stated five main reasons for their unhappiness and called for the SA to take over the reins.
Their main grouse has been with the SMA's decision to introduce qualifying marks and a selection criteria.
The Masters community have been upset by what most believe goes against the ethos of the World Masters Athletics (WMA), the overseeing body which encourages participation, and welcomes anyone to take part in WMA and WMA-affiliated Masters competitions, regardless of their standard.
Christina Tay, a 64-year-old associate lecturer who has taken part in six Asia Masters Athletics Championships, is one of them.
Tay, who ran the 300m hurdles, 4x100m and 4x400m relays, said: "When we feel that we are fit and ready, we choose to compete. But suddenly, this year, they've set these qualifying marks. We feel that it's killing the Masters.
"On top of that, we have been told that if you sign up for a competition, and have the green light from SMA, you have to go for centralised Masters training.
"How is that possible for the community? Most of us have a day-to-day job, plus we already would have our own training programmes."
The appeal letter also claimed that SMA deputy president Samuel Veera Singaram had, on more than one occasion, used strong language while communicating with some of the veteran athletes.
When contacted, Veera said: "SMA has been strictly told by our adviser to refute all allegations. We will reply accordingly to the parties in the next few days and hold a press conference to address this matter."
RAISING THE LEVEL
An SMA official added: "Any good governance will have a certain percentage of opposition. We are trying to bring the Masters to the next level.
"We are treating competitions as competitions and not as a holiday. We are representing Singapore and you need to have a certain standard if you are going to represent the country overseas.
"These people who oppose the direction that SMA is taking are not seeing the efforts made by SMA to be more professional."
Nonetheless, over 800 signatories have backed an online petition on change.org, urging SA to write to World Athletics (IAAF's name from October) and WMA to replace SMA as the country's representative.
John Chua, a representative of the Singapore Masters Track & Field Association, who started the petition, wrote on the page: "We need to return to a culture of nurture, support and encouragement for Masters to participate in athletics."
When contacted, SA president Tang said he had seen the appeal letter and would be looking into the matter this week.
"We are aware of the unhappiness and the main committee will need to meet and discuss this matter," he said. "For the moment, we can't comment."
Asked how he would be handling the matter, Tang insisted that the Masters community's grievances should be taken seriously.
He said: "As a country, we have been promoting a sportsfor-life culture, so definitely we need to hear the community out and try to fix any issues that crop up."