Asian Games: Babella upset with officials, himself

Asian Games: Babella upset with officials, himself
Singapore canoe team.

Singapore had nine representatives in the canoe sprint finals but ended up with no medals.

So it was little wonder that coach Balazs Babella pulled no punches when he met the media yesterday at the Hanam Misari Canoe/Kayak Centre, directing his annoyance both at the competition's officials and himself.

Said the Hungarian: "The starters, the umpires, the kind of work they did is not even enough for the South-east Asia Championships. "(Athletes) can start with false starts or moving starts... it's not an excuse but it's just terrible."

And while he admitted some members of the team could do better, Babella said he should also shoulder some of the blame.

The two-time former K4 200m world champion said: "I made a big mistake because I didn't focus on events which are important. "I thought (we) had to do (more events) to make everybody happy but, at the end of the day, nobody's happy.

"But there are only so many athletes and I have to make them stay in the sport. I should have been much more strict and firm (when deciding)."

The team had started the day with hopes of breaking the medal duck, having qualified for eight of the 12 canoe sprint finals, on top of a straight final.

Alas, finishing on the podium proved a stroke too far.

Regardless, it was still a good outing by the canoeists as they looked to build on their six-medal haul (two golds, two silvers and two bronzes) at last year's SEA Games.

Like the surrounding mountains seen briefly through the thick mist, Singapore's canoeists also showed glimpses of their ability. At the last Asiad, they had six female representatives, and finished last in two of four events they took part in.

This time, they sent an 11-strong contingent (five women, six men) and finished last only once. Mervyn Toh, who qualified fourth-fastest for the K1 200m men, was a mere 0.596sec away from a bronze.

Said Babella: "Mervyn was amazing.''

"In the heats, he clocked one second better than his personal best (34.9sec). He was pushed back because of a false start, and he was still not far."

Overall, he took heart in the team's showing and is confident the side, buoyed by their Asiad campaign, will stand tall at next year's SEA Games.

Said Babella: "SEA Games will be a tough fight but it will be a fight (from which) we'll come out as winners."

He joked: "If there's betting in the SEA Games for canoeing, put money on us because you will get back a lot of money."

This article was first published on September 30, 2014.
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