Before the voting began at the Singapore Athletic Association (SAA) annual general meeting at Hotel Royal yesterday evening, veteran sports administrator Victor Khoo asked for the microphone.
Addressing the crowd which comprised national athletes and coaches, members from 21 of the SAA's 22 affiliates, and candidates from teams led by the incumbent Tang Weng Fei and his challenger Sng Sze Hiang, Khoo delivered a short but poignant speech.
The 75-year-old, a patron of the SAA, urged the affiliates to "vote for the person that will serve you best" and not one team or the other.
In 2006, candidates walked out of the AGM when their candidate for president lost, but that did not happen last night.
While Tang successfully saw off Sng's challenge by 13 votes to eight, he later saw five members of Sng's team win the other 13 battles. Four of the five won key SAA management positions.
Interestingly, the vice-president (competitions organising) post went to Loh Chan Pew, who beat Tang's candidate William Wong by 14 votes to seven.
Once "close friends", Loh and Tang had a public fallout over the past six months over the former's allegations of irregular practices by SAA general manager James Wong.
Tang even suspended Loh for over two months in February after he "misbehaved" at an SAA exco meeting. The ban was later lifted by an independent panel.
But both men embraced each other after the AGM, and later suggested they were ready to set aside their differences for the sake of track and field.
Said Loh, smiling: "I think this is history. I can't remember an incident like this where the candidates were picked one by one.
"But now, those of us who've come in must do a job. We can't talk about your camp, my camp any more."
Tang added: "I think the affiliates have voted wisely, and this team is a good team. We just have to put personal grudges aside.
"Like Victor said, being voted into the management committee is public service."
Tang, who has led the SAA since 2010, added he was not bothered that five of the 14 posts contested went to Sng's candidates.
He described new vice-president (finance) R Rajendran as being "very capable", and said he was keen to rope in Associate Prof Tan Ming Jen, who was Sng's candidate for chairman (cross country), as part of SAA's committee working on next year's South-east Asia Games.
Loh, however, hinted he was still not done with pursuing his allegations against Wong, even after the SAA and national sports body Sport Singapore cleared the former discus king of any wrongdoing.
The 69-year-old said: "We are all friends, but we must go by the book.
"Let's meet first and see what the president (Tang) has to say."
Focus shifts to SEA Games
The medal haul at last December's South-east Asia (SEA) Games in Myanmar was just eight, with two golds in the women's shot put and men's marathon.
But hopes are high that Singapore could attain one of its best athletics performances at next year's SEA Games, after three national records were broken earlier this month.
Tang Weng Fei, who was re-elected as Singapore Athletic Association (SAA) president for another two years yesterday, is hopeful of a good performance from his charges.
He said: "We have a couple of middle-distance runners who are strong medal contenders, not forgetting Mok Ying Ren (who won the marathon gold in Myanmar).
"Moving ahead... we have to make sure the athletes have a say in training and selection."
Tang added that the newly-elected SAA exco will have to work together to best prepare the athletes.
Vice-president (competitions) Loh Chan Pew said: "All along, I have said that we must focus on the SEA Games; there are only 11 months to go."
Singapore's best track and field haul - six golds - came when the Republic hosted the Games in 1973.
While he does not think the current crop can emulate the performance of 1973, C Kunalan believes that the young sprint stars can pull off a surprise.
The new VP (training and selection) said: "People like Shanti (Pereira) and Zubin are not there yet, but... with the right support, they can get there. First, we must ensure that they are well looked after in training."
This article was first published on JUNE 24, 2014.
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