Must do better (TODAY, 12 June 2008 )

By Low Lin Fhoong


AT THE Sydney Olympics in 2000, paddler Jing Junhong finished fourth in the women’s singles event, and four years later in Athens, Li Jiawei came close to ending Singapore’s Olympic medal drought when she finished in fourth spot.  


The women’s table tennis team kicks off its Beijing Olympic campaign in August, and table tennis players Li, Wang Yuegu and Feng Tianwei — ranked No 6, 7 and 9 in the world, respectively, with China occupying the top five spots — are in prime position to bring home a medal for the Republic.  


The women’s team are also ranked second in the world, just behind giants China, and sealed victories over world No 5 team Japan and Holland to take the silver medal at the World Team Table Tennis Championships in February.  


Table tennis also swept all the seven gold medals on offer at last December’s SEA Games, and the list of accolades include four titles (women’s team, singles and doubles, and mixed doubles) at the 2006 Commonwealth Games.     


But despite the success of their athletes, the Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA) were conspicuously missing from the Singapore Sports Council’s (SSC) list of role model sports associations :yesterday, when the organisation revealed their grants for NSAs (national sports associations) for FY2008.   


According to the SSC, sports like archery, sailing, swimming, shooting and gymnastics stood out in the areas of sports excellence and youth development.  In the areas of high participation, basketball, badminton, football, netball and sailing were given the thumbs up.  


Said SSC chief executive officer Oon Jin Teik: “We’ve identified some NSAs that have done well in areas like high performance and participation, and we want to refer the weaker NSAs to those stronger ones (as examples).  


“Table tennis did not fulfil all the factors as we are looking at youth development and whether there is a sustainable system (for developing athletes). There is no pipeline for youth athletes … an NSA may be winning medals but is there a high performance system in place?”  


The national sports association did receive an increase in funding nonetheless.


Last year, they were in the $1.5-$2 million group, but they will be getting more than $2 million funding for the coming year.   


In a telephone interview with Today, STTA chief executive officer Jackie Tay said: “Being a role model NSA is not key for us, as our vision and mission is in elite development and high participation.”


 Tay also stressed that more would be needed to help in youth development. He said: “We understand the constraints of SSC, but we expected a little bit more in funding for youth development, especially with the 2010 Youth Olympic Games coming up.”


Based on its outcome-based funding model, the SSC will disburse $32.4 million of funds to NSAs for this fiscal year, an increase of about two per cent from the previous term.   An additional $16.4 million will also be channelled to NSAs via indirect grants for athlete development and programmes.   


NSAs are evaluated based on a number of considerations: Performance at international events such as the 2008 Beijing Olympics, high participation with emphasis on youth for the association’s programmes and events.   


Top earners for FY2008 are badminton, bowling, sailing, swimming, shooting and table tennis, who were placed in the top band with over $2 million in funding for FY2008. …


Today understands that key performance indicators (KPIs) such as high performance coaching structures and sports education programmes have been set for non-performing NSAs — numbering less than 10 — with a percentage of funding withheld until the KPIs are met.


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