Thu, Jul 02, 2009
The Straits Times
'Foster father' Wung Yew is Daddy Cool

By Leonard Lim

NATIONAL shooter Lee Wung Yew has been finding himself in an unusual role the past few days.

The chef de mission for Singapore's Asian Youth Games contingent is playing foster father to 90 energetic teenagers until the inaugural event ends next Tuesday.

'There's a term for this in education - in loco parentis,' quipped the Innova Junior College physical education teacher, who has an 18-year-old son.

'It's a Latin term which means I'm a parent for the children when they are away from their parents.'

The 43-year-old also sees his task as slightly different from the heads of delegations at other major events like the Olympics and South-east Asia (SEA) Games.

'These athletes are really, really young, so the way we interact with them has to be different from adult athletes,' said the 13-time SEA Games gold medallist.

It helps that he is approachable and has a ready smile for anyone.

Said wife Lynn Ng: 'He's able to joke with the young athletes and put them at ease, which is good as the AYG might be quite unnerving for many of them.'

The nine-sport AYG is for athletes aged between 14 and 17, and the first taste of a major Games for many of them.

His top priority is to ensure all their needs are met during their stay at Swissotel The Stamford, the designated Games Village which will house all athletes and some officials.

And there has been only praise so far for the five-star hotel's facilities, which include a common leisure area and round-the-clock dining.

Lee said: 'So far, the athletes are enjoying the experience. There're no complaints, and they're all in high spirits.

'That's important because when their surroundings are good, they will be ready mentally to go out, focus on the Games and compete.'

The veteran of 11 SEA Games, five Asian Games and three Olympics added that the Village's facilities were the best he had seen in his 24-year international sporting career.

'I'd rate it as better than some of the SEA Games Villages even, and one of the best in Asia,' he said.

'Some of the soccer boys have been gushing about the rooms and say they're bagus.'

Bagus means good in Malay.

Lee also does not want to put unnecessary pressure on the young athletes, so he has three taboo words for the week ahead: medals, pressure and target.

The two-time Sportsman of the Year said: 'I don't want them to worry.

'As an athlete myself, I know even when you tell people, 'Don't worry, there's no pressure', they start worrying.

'Some athletes will keep thinking about what you talk about, so I will leave it to the respective team managers to talk about expectations.

'Remember, these are just young kids.'

This article was first published in The Straits Times.

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