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Chua Siang Yee
Saturday, May 31, 2014

Sports

Tang calms as vote looms

The Straits Times | Chua Siang Yee | Saturday, May 31, 2014

SAA president Tang Weng Fei (centre) rates his own performance as a “seven to eight” out of 10. He is flanked by (from left to right) C. Kunalan, Lee Yan Lin, Patrick Pak and ex-national discus thrower Ron Koh.

SINGAPORE - He is facing a contested election for the first time in four years.

Yet Singapore Athletic Association (SAA) president Tang Weng Fei is a picture of zen in the face of the proverbial storm, as he unveiled his new team yesterday for the June 23 elections.

It comes at a time when the secretariat is in disarray: Over the past three months, vice-presidents Loh Chan Pew and Steven Lee were suspended, then reinstated after an independent panel overturned their suspensions.

Said the 60-year-old, who has retained his post since 2010: "It does not matter who wins, because the most important thing is that track and field must go forward.

"I'm not going to lose any sleep if I lose the election."

Tang, who was also chairman of S-League club Woodlands Wellington from 2001-2004, added: "What I want is a clean election. We're just going to tell affiliates about our work over the past four years, our manifesto, and eventually, let the 22 affiliates decide what they want to do."

Among his key appointment holders are former national runner C Kunalan (vice-president, training and selection), William Wong (vice-president, competitions organising), and Jezreel Mok (vice-president, finance).

New faces include Mok, Patrick Pak (honorary secretary), who was Tang's general manager at Woodlands, and ex-national discus thrower Ron Koh (chairman, technical and equipment).

Leadership renewal is one of two key drivers of Tang's manifesto. The other is to build upon the foundations laid out over the past four years, and to focus on next year's SEA Games and the 2016 Asian Masters, both of which will be held in Singapore.

Tang, who was also SAA president from 2004 to 2006, feels that the introduction of new blood will purge the association of in-fighting, especially among the secretariat, an area he admitted he did not manage well.

Since being reinstated, Loh and Lee have pledged their allegiance to the opposing faction, led by former national runner Sng Sze Hiang.

In 2011, the association was also hit by the resignations of David Yeo (high-performance chief) and Ho Mun Cheong (vice-president, competitions).

Tang said: "I've been thinking (about) what did we do wrong, and one of the mistakes is that we are relying on too many ex-athletes with baggage. We don't want people with baggage."

"I want to test this new system, and make the secretariat more of a team with young people, who understand new media engagement."

However, the former national hurdler emphasised that experienced people, such as Kunalan, would be around to ensure a smooth transition.

Said Tang: "Kunalan is 71, but he is standing for election to help guide the young people up."

Looking back at his four-year reign, the oil trader gave his performance a "seven to eight" out of 10, highlighting SAA's reserves, which have increased by more than $100,000 since he took over.

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