News of changes in the development of young local table tennis players has polarised the local fraternity.
A Straits Times article last week reported that the Singapore Sports School's School Within a School programme would be the Singapore Table Tennis Association's (STTA) primary pipeline for talent.
Responding to queries on this issue on Wednesday, STTA president Lee Bee Wah said such a change was necessary in order to groom Olympic-level local-born paddlers.
One camp believes the new strategy is unfair towards talented paddlers in mainstream schools, who can be just as committed as the sports school's players if given a chance.
Said Serene Seah, whose son Lucas is studying at the Raffles Institution and in the national youth team: "Players in mainstream schools can commit themselves if given the opportunity.
"My son is in a sports class where the curriculum is different and where the schedule can be shifted to accommodate tournaments."
Critics of the new strategy also pointed that SSP paddlers are not the best in the age-group, as shown in this year's National Schools Championships, where the Raffles Institution and Raffles Girls' School dominated the finals in the B and C divisions.
RI claimed the C boys' title while RGS took the B girls' title. SSP's only presence in a final was victorious, when they beat RGS 3-2 to clinch the C girls' crown.
Rafael Soh, 49, an avid table tennis player who trains with young paddlers occasionally, is concerned that the new direction that STTA is taking would affect the morale among paddlers in mainstream schools and their desire to play.
However, former Youth Olympic Games trainee Chau Hai Qing feels that the move "may not be a bad decision".
The former RGS student, who is now a second-year RI (College) student, said: "Sports school students have a lot of commitment and it's easier for them to juggle training and studies."
The former national youth player has left the age-group squad for "a few months" to concentrate on her studies, and does not plan to continue with the sport on a high level after her 'A' levels.
Launched last June, the sports school's SWS programme started with 18 student-athletes, including five paddlers.
The STTA selects the players for this programme, which is funded by the Temasek Education Foundation's EW Barker Endowment Fund.
Asked to respond on this issue, SSP's assistant director of sports Eric Song said: "The SWS programme was developed in consultation with STTA.
"It is modelled after the positive experiences with paddlers Isabelle Li, Pang Xue Jie and Clarence Chew, where a carefully-planned programme of high volume and intensity of training, coupled with high frequency of overseas competitions demanded a high level of customisation of academic support; as was done for Isabelle and Clarence in their run-up to YOG 2010.
"The SWS programme allows talented student-athletes to attain optimal sports training and academic progress through a constructive partnership of the SSP, STTA and student-athlete.
"SSP is confident that such a programme will replicate even more, the successes like that of the paddlers mentioned."
The New Paper sent queries to RI, RGS and Cedar Girls' Secondary School, but these schools did not respond at press time.
Upset parents of paddlers in mainstream schools are not giving up hope though.
Seah said: "I am talking to some parents and hoping to meet Ms Lee for a meeting where she can hear our concerns."
This article was first published in The New Paper.