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Team Chief Unimpressed

Team ChiefSingapore, with 42 golds won and the SEA Games’ most be-medalled athlete on its books, finishes fifth in the medal standings.

But its performance here has not impressed chef de mission Tan Eng Liang.

Using 2009 Laos Games, where Singapore claimed 33 golds, as a reference point, Dr Tan felt that the return of 42 golds did not necessarily represent an improvement as it has entered a larger contingent and competed in a wider spread of sports.

If you take away sports like canoeing, sailing, bowling, water skiing, gymnastics, and women’s water polo, which contributed 12 golds in Indonesia but were absent two years ago in Vientiane, he said Singapore’s golden haul in the competition would drop to 30 golds.

“So we are worse off than the Laos Games, which I repeat in my reference point.” He said yesterday in a media briefing at the Sultan Hotel in Jakarta.

“If you ask me, as chef de mission, have we done well, my answer is I’m sorry to say that it is at best, satisfactory.”

Two years ago, a total of 192 athletes were sent to compete in 18 sports, while 414 athletes too part in 35 sports here. The 42 golds garnered this time match the number in Manila in 2005 and are one short of the record “away” haul in Korat in 2007.

In his summary yesterday, when he also paid tribute to the Indonesian organisers and thanked them for the hospitality, he divided the performance of Singapore national sports association (NSAs) into four tiers.

Right at the top was swimming, which won a record 17 golds, including seven (four individual and three relay) from Tao Li, the top performer of the Games.

Table tennis, bowling and sailing were also given top marks.

Said Dr Tan: “To have five golds speaks well for table tennis, even though they are expected to win anywhere. I recognize their efforts and that is why I’ve put them in the A category.”

Canoeing, with 10 golds in including two golds, also received special mention from him.

However, he singled out shooting and fencing as let-downs. While the country’s shooters bagged six golds, five silvers and five bronzes in Laos, they left Palembang last week with just one gold and one silver.

Shooters Jasmine Ser, Poh Lip Meng and Nigel Lim all failed to win their events even though they are part of Singapore’s Olympic Pathway Programme, which was launched in May 2009 with a war chest of $6.3 million.

“Shooting for me is a major disappointment,” said Dr Tan, who is also vice president of the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC).

As for fencing, it had boldly set a target of five golds, but managed to bag just one silver and two bronzes.

Expectations had been high for the fencers but they did not deliver, said Dr Tan.

“I have to make some recommendations and would expect the NSAs to do something. They don’t need SNOC to tell them the obvious.”

Meanwhile, he reserved his harshest criticism for pentanque, sepak takraw and traditional boat race (all without a single medal).

He said: “Sepak takraw traditionally is supposed to be a bronze medal list at least, but it has consistently performed with zero results. It is almost definitely out of consideration for 2013.”

With Singapore hosting the 2015 Games and expected to perform well in front of a home crowd, the clock is ticking for several sports, he added.

“So I urge and encourage the NSAs to start preparing now.”

– Jonathan Wong

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