Athletics chief Tang eyes one last term
Athletics chief Tang plans to run for last two-year term, eyes IAAF role in 2019
He has helmed Singapore Athletics (SA) since June 2010, and has weathered many storms, both internal and external.
Oil trader Tang Weng Fei feels that he has unfinished business and hence, he plans to run for the SA presidency for another two-year term when the national sports association holds its elections in the middle of the year.
In a wide-ranging interview with The New Paper this week, Tang said: "I want to continue for another two years.
"In the six months last year that I've spent canvassing for votes in South America, Middle East and Eastern Europe (for my IAAF treasurer position), I've learnt a lot of new things that I can help the local athletics scene with."
The 61-year-old finished second in the IAAF elections to Royal Spanish Athletics Federation president Jose Maria Odriozola, who garnered 102 votes compared to his 68.
Tang has already put in place a new apprentice national coach programme, where novice coaches Alfred Sim and Fabian Williams come under the wing of national sprints coach Luis Cunha (see other report), and added that the National Sport Association has come up with an "interesting" concept for a track and field meet here, which would spark interest at all levels.
Tang said: "I want to see this legacy (the new meet concept) through... I hope this legacy will continue even if I step down in 2018, which I plan to."
He added that an announcement on this new meet will be made soon.
The former national hurdler also plans to run for the treasurer position at the IAAF in 2019, even if he is no longer on the SA executive committee.
He said: "I think I can still contribute to IAAF, in terms of my business, marketing and finance backgrounds.
"I can offer good governance too. After all, I am running my own company, which has more money than what IAAF has.
"You don't need to be president (of SA) to run for an IAAF role... you just need your member association to endorse your application."
Tang added that the contacts that he has made in his canvassing for the IAAF role has helped put Singapore on the map, and would make it easier for the Republic to host more world-class events in the future.
He said: "Let's say moving forward, we want to host a world junior championships, it would be easier because I know more people (at the international level) now."
While sports like swimming and sailing are now making waves at the world and Olympic levels, Tang feels that the Republic's athletes should aim at excelling at Asian level first.
He said: "I think we have to be a bit more pragmatic; the Olympics is still a goal we have, but we will do it step by step.
"We are good enough to get medals at the South-east Asia Games, but our next step is to try to be finalists at the Asian Games, which is not easy nowadays since the standards are pretty high."
To do that, he hopes to change the "Confucian" mindset of local athletes and coaches, where athletes tend to "stay loyal" to a coach instead of having their development taken over by more elite coaches as they move up the ranks.
But Tang acknowledges it would be a difficult challenge.
He said: "Should Shanti (Pereira) go to another coach to take her to the next level? She prefers to train under Margaret Oh and she is doing a great job.
"You've got to be sensitive about these partnerships, you cannot force an athlete to do things he or she doesn't want."
Athletes and coaches must change mindsets
1 You have spent the bulk of your two-year term focusing on last year's South-east Asia Games. Now that it's over, what are your future plans for Singapore Athletics?
Maybe I can go back to 2010 when I first came in... for the first one or two years, we were trying to get the sport back on its feet because the financing (from Sport Singapore) was cut. We succeeded in getting that back.
With the Singapore Sports Hub coming up then, our plan was to get ourselves a home because I believe in getting the "hardware" in place before we work on the "software".
Now we have an office in the Sports Hub, we have a practice track, which is home to our athletes.
MENTALITY: One of the challenges facing Singapore Athletics president Tang is trying to change the mindset of athletes like SEA Games gold medallist Veronica Shanti Pereira (above, second from left), who prefers to stay loyal to her long-time coach instead of changing to other elite coaches to move up the ranks. -- PHOTOS: SINGSOC/ACTION IMAGES, ST FILE Above: Zubin (Muncherji)
With that in place, we can get the "software" in. We have started an apprentice scheme at the start of the year where two coaches, Alfred Sim and Fabian Williams, learn from national sprints coach on a part-time basis.
Once that is in place, we plan to start the same structure with the middle- and long-distance events. After that, we would look at the jumps and throws.
2 You spoke of hiring a technical director last October. How is that coming along?
We used to have a technical director in Ralph Mouchbahani and he was a very good one. But even he could not galvanise the whole fraternity.
My concern is with the coaches; I am not saying that they are unwilling to work together, but that willingness is not forthcoming.
To address that, we are starting with the athletes. We are telling athletes as young as 13 that if they want to be elite athletes, there are phases that they go through with different coaches.
We have spoken to the Singapore Sports School, where most of our elite youth and junior athletes come from, and we will be speaking to schools such as Hwa Chong Institution and Raffles Institution.
We already have the funds from SportSG (for the technical director), but is it fair to do it just because the funds are there? We counter-proposed to SportSG to use the funds for the apprentice scheme.
If there's one NSA I want to emulate, it is swimming... but it is difficult to emulate their coaching structure, where a coach like Sergio (Lopez, national swim coach) can come in and change the mindset.
I think it has to be done by local coaches in our case, and identifying them to do so is a challenge.
3 What about the development of athletes, to help them move beyond the SEA Games level?
We have to be more pragmatic, the Olympics is a goal we have, but we have to take it step by step.
Our next target should really be to get into the Asian Games finals.
Athletes like Shanti (Pereira) will qualify for the finals in time to come, while we have other people like Calvin (Kang), Zubin (Muncherji) and (Ng) Chin Hui coming up.
Zubin is going to the United States after his National Service, while Chin Hui is already training in Oregon.
Shanti will finish her polytechnic studies next year and should also be going to the US to study.
My hope is that all three would be in Oregon so that they can take care of each other.
But, it is tricky because it depends on what the athletes and parents want.
4 Our men's 4x100m relay team are in a transition process after the 2015 SEA Games. Do you see them challenging powerhouse Thailand for the title any time soon?
Timothee Yap and Naqib Asmin are coming up, while Calvin is still injured, but I think they could still be in the top three next year.
Other than Calvin, the rest are in their late teens or early 20s, so they will have a few SEA Games to go (before they can challenge Thailand for the title), if they continue to work together.
But, don't forget, Thailand are always improving.