TL;DR – Sport is a universal language.
Singapore’s athletics delivered an overall haul of two golds, two silvers and four bronzes. One of the two gold medals was Singapore’s first high jump gold in 52 years. Another was in marathon, where Soh Rui Yong became the first Singaporean to win back to back gold medals at the SEA Games.
In addition to the medals, three new national records were set and one equalled. Of the three national records that were set, one was set when Dipna Lim-Prasad registered her personal best in the 400m hurdles. In so doing, she broke Chee Swee Lee’s longstanding national record.
Lack of support
What’s more impressive is that the athletes achieved all that even though they didn’t receive much support from the Singapore Athletics (SA). Prior to the SEA Games, internal strife in SA prompted national governing sports body Sport Singapore (SportSG) and the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) to take over the management of the SEA Games athletics team.
But by then, the internal strife had already disrupted athletes’ preparations. For example, Shanti Pereira, a sprinter, was caught up in a dispute between SA and her coach Margaret Oh over her involvement in the 4x100m relay side. She admitted the incident affected her. Nevertheless, she played an instrumental part in the relay team’s performance in the SEA Games, where they set a new national record.
Similarly, a few of our other athletes did well despite not receiving much support.
Michelle Sng, our high jumper who won Singapore’s first SEA Games gold medal in high jump, didn’t get much support. She applied for gold-medal campaign support and didn’t get it. Yet, she got a gold medal anyway.
Soh Rui Yong’s preparations were also disrupted when he was caught up in a dispute with SNOC over a Facebook post where he thanked his sponsors. He pointed out that the current system makes it difficult for Singaporean sportsmen. Many of them aren’t fully funded by the government. The costs of training in Singapore are high. It’s not easy for them to keep training and maintain the standards needed to compete at the international level.
Dipna Lim-Prasad also had similar sentiments. She had doubts about whether she should continue continue her passion. She said:
“Ultimately, it’s not a career I can sustain being full-time because I’m not financially independent and it comes to a point where I have to evaluate whether I’m being selfish.”
But continue she did, bringing home two silvers and two national records.
We should support our athletes more
The athletes’ performance, despite the challenges, can be an inspiration for the rest of us. Not all of us can be athletes, able to compete at the international level. But all of us can push ourselves a little bit more, test our limits and go beyond.
Also, the performance of our athletes at international competitions bring us together as a nation. Remember how it felt when the nation came together to cheer for Joseph Schooling at the Olympics? Yes, the SEA Games isn’t quite the Olympic Games. But these smaller competitions are steps for our athletes to get to a larger stage.
That’s why we need to support our athletes better. They work hard to bring pride to Singapore. It’s not fair that we ask them to sacrifice so much in the service of our nation.
And create a sporting culture
And if we support our athletes better, and they do well, gain greater visibility, perhaps that will inspire more people to get into sports. That will help achieve what this video by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) is trying to achieve:
As former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan states,
“Sport is a universal language. At its best it can bring people together, no matter what their origin, background, religious beliefs or economic status.”