After Beijing Olympics debacle, Lee now takes different work approach
By Lin Xinyi
THE start of her tenure as Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA) president might have got off on the wrong foot during the Beijing Olympics, but Lee Bee Wah has now adopted a new working style.
Lee, an MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC, said yesterday: “Now I want to do things with two Qs – quickly and quietly.”
In August, she was in the eye of the “Gao Ning incident” storm after the paddler, who played without a coach, crashed out in the third-round singles.
Then, she revealed that team manager Antony Lee’s services were no longer needed, and that head coach Liu Guodong’s fate would be decided by a coaching committee. Antony eventually apologised and no disciplinary action was taken.
She said her priorities now include the nurturing of local talents.
Speaking at the start of the three-day STTA selection trial for Youth Olympic Games (YOG) candidates at the Singapore Sports School, Lee said: “The YOG is part of a process, not the final destination.
“We hope that the Games will spur interest among local talents. After the Games, we would like to groom them into national players.”
Ultimately, she aims to have a good mix of local and foreign talent in the national team, and hopes to see locals playing professionally within the next five to seven years.
In preparation for the YOG, the STTA has come up with a 22-month training plan for the selected paddlers.
It includes local and overseas training, and overseas competitions such as the International Table Tennis Federation Junior Circuit.
Lee declined to reveal any figures when asked how much funding was needed to prepare for the inaugural Games.
She would only say that a proposed budget has been sent to the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports and the Singapore Sports Council.
In addition to overseas training and competitions, Lee has also budgeted for a tutor to travel with the paddlers when they go for overseas competitions.
“We hope to recruit a school teacher who can double up as the team manager when we go overseas,” she said.
The teacher will provide maths and science tuition for the youth paddlers and help to allay the fears of parents who feel their children might need to catch up on their studies due to the rigorous training programme, added Lee.
Players selected to represent Singapore at the YOG need to go through 30 hours of training each week.
They will train under newly appointed national youth team coach Xu Xiangdong. The 49-year-old, who arrived on Monday, was headhunted to front the Republic’s YOG efforts.
Yesterday, Xu watched from the sidelines of the selection trial, which featured 33 paddlers aged 12 to 14.
The former China national team player said: “The overall standard of play here is much lower than that of the world’s best youths. But there are one or two players who showed promise.
“Although this is below my expectations, this is the reality and now it’s all about bringing out the best in them.”
Xu, who has over two decades of coaching experience, added that his immediate task is to enhance the paddlers’ technical abilities and to build their physical strength.