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Sunday, Jun 8, 2014

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Swimming: Chay wants to pay his dues

The Straits Times | Sunday, Jun 8, 2014

Joscelin Yeo and Mark Chay training ahead of the 2004 Athens Olympics. The two are likely to be direct competitors for the vice-presidency of the Singapore Swimming Association.

The call which came in January was an offer that was too good to refuse - giving him a chance to return to the sport which shaped his life.

So when Singapore Swimming Association (SSA) presidential candidate Jessie Phua asked if Mark Chay would run beside her for next Friday's election, the 32-year-old former national swimmer did not waver.

"Without a doubt, Auntie Jessie," he told her.

Chay, fast rising as one of Singapore's next generation of sports administrators, will be vying for the post of vice-president (swimming) as part of Phua's team.

He will likely be up against former national team-mate Joscelin Yeo, who is part of a team led by SSA secretary-general Lee Kok Choy, 62, who is also vying for the presidency.

For the former Sportsboy (2001) and Sportsman (2002) of the Year, this will be the second bid for the vice-president's post after losing out to Ang Peng Wee in 2008.

After stints in the SSA as a communications manager (2011) and also the Singapore Hockey Federation as chief executive officer (2011-2012), Chay feels that he is now in a stronger position to contribute.

He said: "Swimming has always been my passion and a great part of my life. That is consistent with my willingness to come back.

"I'm older, I'm more mature as I have had a lot more experience in sports administration so I understand the ground better. My involvement in other sports like hockey also gives me a lot more confidence and ability."

Since retiring in 2007 after a 10-year career competing in two Olympics, two Asian Games, two Commonwealth Games and five SEA Games, Chay next dived into sports administration.

His latest appointment - also his most senior to date - saw him named as the nation's chef-de- mission for August's Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China.

Chay, who is also the assistant honorary secretary of Olympians Singapore and a member of the Athletes' Commission, believes that the 58-year-old Phua's leadership and their team's vision of "Building Capabilities" is the best way forward for swimming.

They aim to develop the sport from the "roots up" through empowering the local clubs with sports science and technology by providing clinics and classes.

He said: "We want to make sure that sports science is not just restricted to top-level athletes. To me, that is what is lacking now.

"We want to form an eco-system for high performance so that this knowledge will eventually be the common language that everyone speaks."

But win or lose on June 13, Chay feels that with former athletes like Yeo and himself having stepped forward to serve, his sport has already won.

He said: "I wouldn't say that I am really competing against Joscelin. We were team-mates, we have an intimate understanding of each other. After the elections are done, swimming wins.

"I hope she's sincere and win or lose, I hope she will continue to contribute to the sport."

ugenec@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on June 6, 2014.
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