Singapore's male athletes fail to impress

Updated: May 7, 2009, 7:22 AM ET
By Ossian Shine | Reuters

SINGAPORE -- The sorry state of men's sport in Singapore was thrown into sharp focus when organizers failed to honor a Sportsman of the Year for the first time since the nation's annual awards began more than 40 years ago.

The judging panel considered its list of nominees but chose not to bestow the honor for the first time since 1967 because none of the shortlisted athletes was deemed worthy.

"We felt that the performance of the men could have been better and decided not to make an award this year," said Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) President Teo Chee Hean.

"The standard of Singapore sports has gone up ... we do expect more from our athletes now," he told local media.

SNOC Secretary-General Chris Chan agreed it had been a disappointing year.

"Unfortunately, it was a bad year; none of them really achieved anything noteworthy of the standard to be Sportsman of the Year," he said.

The controversy continued when the panel also failed to name a Coach of the Year due to internal politics and wrangling within the city-state's sporting structure.

Former table tennis national head coach Liu Guodong would have been all-but guaranteed to walk away with the illustrious award having helped break Singapore's 48-year Olympic medal drought at the 2008 Games.

However, during those Beijing Olympics Liu was accused of neglecting one of the male table tennis players and even though the matter was later resolved, the coach decided not to renew his contract with the Singapore Table Tennis Association and went to work in Indonesia instead.

The sports award panel was unable to consider him for the award as the Singapore Table Tennis Association had not nominated him.

"We do have to take into consideration the views of the sports associations when it comes to these nominations," Teo said.

"Eventually, whether a person is nominated or not nominated, the sports association has to take responsibility."

The Singapore Table Tennis Association said the decision not to nominate Liu had been made by an in-house committee.

"The committee felt that result was one thing, but for Coach of the Year award, we expect much more. Coach of the Year must naturally be well respected by all the players of the team," president of the association Lee Bee Wah said.

Ten-pin bowler Jasmine Yeong-Nathan was named Sportswoman of the Year, pipping two former multiple winners -- swimmer Tao Li and national table tennis player Li Jiawei.

Li did not go unrecognized, though, and together with Wang Yuegu, Feng Tianwei and Sun Beibei was crowned Team of the Year having won Olympic silver at the Beijing Games.