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MCCY Minister Fu encouraged by Singapore sports’ strong 2019

The year 2019 saw many feats on Singapore's sporting front which gives us tremendous pride, said Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu.

Speaking at the ministry's year in review yesterday, she said: "Our athletes have made us proud at the recent SEA Games. Fifty-six per cent are debutants, who contributed to nearly 40 per cent of gold medals.

"Many of the athletes have been supported by our high performance sports system for many years, some of them since their early teens in the Singapore Sport School.

"We are encouraged by this strong showing from our athletes."

While there were many laudable achievements among the Republic's haul of 53 golds, 46 silvers and 68 bronzes - their second-best away performance after 2017 - there were also sports which performed poorly.

In particular, football and athletics were taken to task by the Singapore Sport Institute for flopping at the biennial multi-sport meet.

The Singapore Under-22 football team failed to score in their first four matches and recorded just one win in the Philippines, suffering their third consecutive group-stage exit.

To compound matters, nine of the 20-man squad broke curfew during the tournament.

Athletics was also in the news for the wrong reasons, with internal squabbles cited as a factor behind their poor performances. There were no gold medals to show for last year, unlike three in 2015 and two in 2017.

When asked for her thoughts on those issues by The Straits Times, Minister Fu said they will be working closely with the national sports associations (NSAs) to rectify the faults.

She added: "We want to help them to get the right governance structure in place and, over time, we'll like to work out a long-term sustained developmental plan with the NSAs.

"We hope that by doing so, we are able to give greater certainty to the system, to the athletes, to the coaches, so that... they are able to get the maximum potential out of these efforts."

Noting that it is not an easy process due to different views within each sport's fraternity, Minister Fu added: "But we want to work with them to the best of our abilities and it will be a constant frame for conversations between ourselves and SNOC (Singapore National Olympic Council) and NSAs."

Besides the SEA Games, Singapore's athletes also made breakthroughs in other arenas last year.

For instance, Yip Pin Xiu clinched two gold medals at the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships last September.

Bowler Cherie Tan became the first Singaporean to win gold in the Masters category of the World Bowling Women Championships last August, and became the first Asian to win the Professional Women's Bowling Association Players Championship last September. She was also voted World Bowling Athlete of the Year in an online poll.

Three athletes also attained the top world ranking in their respective categories - Nur Syahidah Alim (para-archery); Koen Pang (table tennis, Under-18 men's singles) and Amita Berthier (fencing, junior women's foil).

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