Asian Games chef de mission reads riot act to officials
Just before the Asian Games flag presentation ceremony yesterday, a team managers' meeting was scheduled with officials from the various National Sports Associations (NSAs) and athletes who will do battle in Incheon, South Korea, from Sept 19-Oct 4.
Only half showed up on time, with the rest trickling in periodically.
Asian Games chef de mission (CDM) Jessie Phua was angry, and duly read the riot act to the latecomers.
Speaking to the media later, after the pledge-taking ceremony at the OCBC Lounge at the Singapore Sports Hub which involved around 300 athletes, Phua revealed she is pushing for a "black book" to record the failings of team officials.
Referring to the last two controversies at major Games, Phua said she has no tolerance for administrative discrepancies.
At July's Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, the Speedo swim caps used by Team Singapore's swimmers were in breach of the rules, causing officials to scramble for new caps at the 11th hour.
At the 2012 London Olympics, swim star Joseph Schooling was told before his 200m butterfly heat that his cap and goggles were not on the list of approved equipment.
Phua is pulling out the stops to ensure there will be no such occurrences on her watch, when she said: "I gave (the latecomers) a shelling.
"I told them, 'you're the people our athletes depend on for support, and I certainly hope this is not a reflection of what you're going to do at the Games'.
NIGHTMARE FROM HELL
"Let this be a wake-up call. It's important to be mindful of our responsibilities. I told them that I will be the nightmare from hell if they don't do their job."
The 17th Asian Games in Incheon will feature 227 local athletes competing across 20 out of 36 sports.
Singapore's best performance at an Asiad was at the Doha Games in 2006 when the athletes returned home with eight golds, seven silvers and 12 bronzes.
Expectations are high that the contingent can improve on the 2010 showing in Guangzhou (17 medals; 4-7-6).
Phua, who is also president of the Singapore Bowling Federation, has not set a medal target for the Incheon Games, but is optimistic of a good overall showing.
"I'm never one to be drawn into medal predictions; it's like putting a sledgehammer over the athletes and telling them to perform," said the 59-year-old, who was Singapore's CDM at the 2009 South-east Asia Games and 2012 Olympics.
"All we ask is they give their best performance, and if that brings home a medal, fantastic.
"Medals are not within our control, doing our best is."
Phua, however, expects the 12-member bowling team to win medals.
The keglers returned home with a haul of five medals from each of the last two Games - one gold, three silvers, one bronze in 2010, and 1-2-2 in 2006.
"If there is one sport Singapore can count on for medals, it's bowling. I just don't know how many and what colour the medals will be," she said.
"The coaches have left no stone unturned in preparation, and we've even ventured so far as to impose a cellphone ban during the Games so the bowlers don't get distracted... and focus on the competition.
"Yes, the Korean bowlers will be strong, especially on home ground, but we are no pushovers, either.
"Our women are in the world top three; we'll give them a run for their money."
“It is incredible that everyone now is asking about how many medals we can win... compared to before when all of us just went to try. Now, we are there in a position to win. The bar has been raised every year, and it is only right we do a better job.”
— Singapore’s Asian Games chef de mission Jessie Phua
“I love Martina. She’s such a bundle of life. She approaches everything so maturely, one step at a time. She enjoys what she’s doing and more importantly, she’s knows that she can’t win every competition she goes for.”
— Singapore’s Asian Games CDM Jessie Phua on teenage shooter Martina Veloso