Major shake-up in table tennis coaching set-up
STTA chief Lee urges team to come together after major changes in coaching set-up
A former Singapore table tennis star who reached the semi-finals of the 2000 Olympic Games, she was handed the coaching reins of a world-class women's team in 2012.
He took over the reins of the men's team five years ago, and guided the paddlers to several highs.
Yesterday, both women's national coach Jing Junhong and men's national coach Yang Chuanning were removed from their posts in a major shake-up announced by the Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA).
Jing has been replaced by her former deputy, Liu Jiayi, while the STTA is looking for a replacement for Yang.
Until a new men's coach is named, assistant coaches Wang Xiang and Zhu Jiang will lead the team.
Jing was reassigned as chief coach (youth development) and is now responsible for the development of the Junior Development Squad, Youth Training Squad (YTS) and School within the School (SWS) programme and its coaches.
Yang was sacked by the national body after "extensive consultation with the players of the men's team", according to the STTA statement.
It is believed that the players felt they were no longer progressing under him.
With the 2016 Olympics in Rio less than 10 months away, the changes will raise eyebrows.
In the statement, STTA president Ellen Lee said: "The changes in the men's and women's teams come at a critical juncture as the STTA works towards the Rio Olympics 2016.
"We hope that the players and the coaches will rally around each other for the good of the country."
The coaching reshuffle comes after a public spat last month between Jing and Yu Mengyu at the Polish Open, before the player's Round-of-16 women's singles tie against China's Liu Shiwen.
Yu had expected assistant trainer Hao Anlin to coach her for the match, but Jing turned up instead.
The paddler, the world No. 24, insisted on Hao, resulting in a court-side squabble which was resolved when Jing finally relented.
After Yu and Feng Tianwei lost their doubles final to China's Ding Ning and Zhu Yuling in the same tournament, an upset Yu spoke out in an article in the Straits Times.
Lee later revealed that Yu and Feng had requested for a coaching change a week before the Polish Open, but the association had to assess the request before taking any action.
The STTA formed a panel, led by Lee, high performance committee chairman Soon Min Sin and CEO Wong Hui Leng, to investigate the matter.
The statement said the panel found that rotation of coaches was common in tournaments and Jing "has the prerogative to assign the coaching support to the players".
During investigations, the STTA noted that Yu "failed to understand the severity of the issue and did not agree that the issue has caused embarrassment to Singapore and STTA".
"She felt that she was not in the wrong and placed the entire blame on the coach. Yu showed no remorse for her actions," the statement added.
Yu has been given a warning letter.
Jing admitted her mistake and was given a verbal reprimand, but given the strained ties with the players, she will no longer coach the women's team.
She said: "I deeply regret the impact of my actions and apologise for not having weighed my actions more carefully. If I could turn back the clock, I would have reacted differently."
While Jing has suffered a harsher sanction, STTA's Wong said: "The written letter will serve as a final warning to Yu; she is reminded not to repeat any act of indiscipline, failing which STTA will not hesitate to take further disciplinary action.
"The redeployment of Jing is a separate matter from the Polish Open incident. Jing is redeployed as the chief coach for youth development.
"We believe that Jing's coaching experience will benefit our youths."
Despite the shake-up, there will be no change to the national team's training and competition schedule, which means Yu will compete in the Swedish Open, which starts next Wednesday.