New athletics chief wants foreign technical director
New athletics supremo says a foreign expert will be hired; sets 2017 SEA Games target
Fifty years ago, he was part of the Singapore men's 4x400m team that finished a heroic third at the 1966 Asian Games in Bangkok.
Today, the Republic's track and field athletes no longer figure on the continental stage and even struggle to achieve much success at regional level, and newly elected Singapore Athletics (SA) president Ho Mun Cheong says his team will take concrete steps towards improving the standard of the sport.
The 67-year-old engineer, who also won an individual bronze in the 400m at the 1973 Asian Athletics Championships in Manila, said: "Look at the international scene. Many countries are improving, so why can't Singapore do the same?
"We can improve, too.
"Compared to when I was an athlete and we had just Farrer Park, we now have world-class facilities. So that's one area of improvement.
"We also want our coaches and technical staff up to date, in terms of methods of training across different disciplines.
"We want local coaches to coach our athletes, so they must be trained, and we will look to bring in a foreign technical director to impart knowledge, even if it's on a part-time basis.
"Ultimately, it also boils down to the athletes' own mindset and will.
"I would say our overall results now are mediocre, and we have to work hard together to improve local track and field as a whole."
Ho beat Edmond Pereira in a vote at the SA annual general meeting on Monday to succeed Tang Weng Fei as president of the association.
He knows intimately the kind of success Singapore used to enjoy in track and field. He teamed up with Natahar Bava, Migale Gunasena and C Kunalan to win the bronze at the 1966 Asian Games.
He watched when teammate Kunalan was just pipped for gold in the 100m by Mani Jegathesan.
The most important competitive assignment for Ho and the rest of his executive committee will be next year's SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur.
Singapore's track and field team won three golds, three silvers and three bronze medals at last year's Games on home soil, and he says the target is to improve on that performance in 2017.
"Other teams are also strong, some are stronger. But we have to produce results and aim to be better, otherwise there will be no improvement," he said.
"We will discuss among the management committee members to firm up the training squad and competition schedule to prepare our athletes."
For young talent like 19-year-old Shanti Pereira, who won the women's 200m gold in a new national record of 23.60sec, Ho said his team will work out a pathway for them to "move up another level".
He added: "We are financially sound, so we want to develop more elite athletes and help them get even better. We also want to set up a junior squad to groom more athletes for future international meets."
While Ho will keep a firm eye on results, he also has the athletes' welfare at heart, and an Athletes' Commission is in the works, which will be headed by former national sprinter Tan Min Jen.
The commission will look at areas including financial aid for student-athletes, as well as helping retired athletes identify and secure job opportunities.
With Ho beating Pereira 11-9 on a revote to become SA chief, it is clear that there is still work to be done to get all the affiliates on the same page.
"We won 12 out of 14 seats, which means we have two from Edmond's team and we have no problems with that and will work closely together," Ho declared.
"We are very close to the ground, so we roughly know which affiliates support us or not.
"But, regardless, we will continue to reach out to every affiliate, offer help in terms of coaching and organise events, because we want to work together for the good of Singapore athletics."
Our overall results now are mediocre, and we have to work hard together to improve local track and field as a whole.
— Singapore Athletics president Ho Mun Cheong, who succeeded Tang Wang Fei on Monday