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Singapore's male athletes fail to impress

5/7/2009 - Olympic Sports

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.