A bigger window for SEA Games nominations
SNOC gives NSAs 'some leeway' in nominating athletes in view of fewer events
With the Covid-19 pandemic scuppering competition opportunities and travel for many of Singapore's national athletes, this "extraordinary circumstance" has prompted the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) to allow national sports associations (NSAs) "some leeway" in justifying their nomination of athletes for the Nov 21-Dec 2 SEA Games in Vietnam.
The SNOC announced the update to its selection criteria on its website last Thursday.
In a letter to NSA leaders, secretary-general Chris Chan said that the SNOC understood the challenges posed "primarily (by) the lack of competitions in the last (year) to obtain the benchmarks to meet the SNOC Selection Criteria".
Before the update, the main criteria for athletes to be nominated by their respective NSAs for the SNOC's consideration for major Games is if they match a standard of performance in their event at the previous edition of the competition, within 15 months of the upcoming meet.
For the biennial SEA Games, this benchmark is the bronze-medal time, distance or marks from the 2019 edition. For team sports, they should currently be ranked third among the SEA Games countries.
Those who miss this benchmark "marginally but show potential to equal or surpass it" are also considered.
For sports whose benchmarks are not measured in a quantified time, distance or marks - such as football - showing that the athlete or team can be competitive against an opponent that finished in the top three of the last edition of the competition, is also acceptable, as long as it is within the qualifying window.
However, Chan wrote in his letter that after a discussion with the Singapore Sports Institute - which provides support to national athletes - the SNOC has revised its selection criteria.
The selection window is now extended a further eight months to include results from the 2019 SEA Games in the Philippines, which means those who medalled then will automatically meet the benchmark.
The SNOC said it would also review up to the last three editions of the SEA Games "and look at the trend in results and trend in number of athletes selected per sport".
The selection committee would also look at each NSA's assessment and projection for the Vietnam Games.
The change was welcomed by athletes The Straits Times spoke to, as some had been concerned that the lack of opportunities to compete against the best in the region would affect their chances of selection.
Boxer Hanurdeen Hamid, who won a flyweight (52kg) bronze medal in the Philippines in 2019, said: "Yes, it does take some weight off my shoulders (in terms of qualifying), but I could see it coming for a while simply because there have been no overseas competitions for over a year already. That was the only logical thing to do."
LACK OF EXPOSURE
However, the 27-year-old, who also won a silver at the 2015 SEA Games and bronze two years later, is still concerned by the lack of exposure and top-level competition. He is preparing for the National Boxing Championships early next month.
"I still train six days a week but training is one thing, competing is another," said Hanurdeen, who spent $5,000 on a training camp in Japan to prepare for the 2019 SEA Games.
"Ideally, I want to train and compete abroad to see where I stand after being inactive for so long."
For pool player Aloysius Yapp, however, the revised SNOC rules do not necessarily mean he is headed for Vietnam, even though he won three medals in the Philippines (silver in the men's 10-ball pool doubles and bronzes in the 9-ball and 10-ball men's singles).
The 24-year-old former junior world champion said whether he gets the nod depends on his performance in an internal selection competition organised by Cuesports Singapore featuring its top-16 players.
He also noted that the lead-up to these Games was "very different" from previous editions. Before the 2019 Games, he competed in top-level competitions in the United States, Taiwan, Japan and China.
This year, he hopes to at least compete at the World Pool Championship in Milton Keynes, England, in June, but added that the association is waiting for approval from the authorities on whether he can travel.
Other sports such as football are also exploring options to keep their players sharp ahead of the Games.
A Football Association of Singapore spokesman told ST that it is "exploring the possibility of organising international friendlies for our national Under-22 team, subject to approval from the relevant government agencies".
"This is in addition to planned centralised training during the international windows in June, September and October, which is also when we will finalise our preparations with the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-23 Asian Cup 2022 Qualifiers," added the spokesman.