Ellen Lee ready to take baton at STTA

Ellen Lee ready to take baton at STTA
From left: Ms Ellen Lee, STTA president Lee Bee Wah and Mr Alex Yam. The Singapore Table Tennis Association has named Ms Lee as their candidate to take over as chief after the current office-holder said two weeks ago that she would be stepping down. Mr Yam said if he is elected as vice-president, he will focus on fund-raising.

The Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA) will find out on Friday whether anyone will challenge its candidate Ellen Lee for the president's post at its elections next week.

The Sembawang GRC MP was yesterday nominated by outgoing STTA chief Lee Bee Wah as her successor. Chua Chu Kang GRC MP Alex Yam, 33, was also unveiled as its choice for deputy president yesterday.

Both will stand for election at the biennial general meeting (BGM) on Sept 6. But if no other candidates emerge by Friday, then both Ms Ellen Lee and Mr Yam will assume office.

On her two preferred candidates, Ms Lee Bee Wah, who was elected president in 2008, said: "Ellen and Alex have come in and helped me since the beginning of the year. They showed enthusiasm and have been working behind the scenes.

"Our goals and visions are aligned. If everyone gives the team the same support that they have given me, I'm sure the result will be there."

It is unclear yet if the two will face a fight. Ex-STTA vice-president Edwin Lee, who retains a keen interest in the sport, said he knows of at least one possible challenger. But he declined to reveal their identities.

He added: "I think it depends on the direction of the new candidates, and whether they are concerned about the promotion of the sport and its well-being."

Ms Ellen Lee, 57, said she was initially surprised at being approached, given that she "does not play table tennis, and is bad at fund raising".

But Ms Lee, a lawyer, is confident of overcoming the challenges and meeting the expectations of heading the country's most successful sport.

She said: "The immediate task would be to carry on what has been put in place. I would be working very closely with the staff over the plans that have already been laid out."

She also welcomed any challengers, adding: "Anybody who thinks they can do a good job and wants to come in should be welcomed to come in."

One area that Ms Ellen Lee would like to improve is helping the Republic's China-born paddlers integrate more into society.

Athletes like Feng Tianwei helped Singapore win three Olympic medals in the last two Olympic Games. But they have yet to endear themselves to the public, who often cite their inability to speak English as a reason the players are difficult to relate to.

Said the mother of four, who also has 10 grandchildren: "If this makes Singaporeans more receptive (to) them, and helps reduce the negativity, then it is possible.

"The thing is they spend most of their time training. For a start, I would like to organise more gatherings and interactions with supporters."

She also hopes to develop post-retirement plans for players and retain their services as coaches or advisors.

The use of foreign-born paddlers is a controversial move that blighted her predecessor's tenure. However, shifting away from the policy is not on Ms Ellen Lee's agenda for now.

She said: "For anyone to do well in anything, competition is necessary. We need to have the foreign talents to provide that competition... and motivate Singaporeans to rise to the occasion.

"The new group of (local) players we have are a good example of that.

"Another obstacle in grooming local paddlers is that few parents support a sporting career ahead of academic success."

But she hopes that sailors Bernie Chin and Samantha Yom's double triumph at the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing on Sunday would encourage more parents to support a sporting career.

Referencing Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's call for employers to look beyond paper qualifications at the National Day Rally, Ms Ellen Lee said: "We should be looking at developing a person holistically and let the best in him or her shine. We have many youngsters who are very good in sports they play and love.

"With Samantha and Bernie winning the two golds for us, I think there'd be more parents who are prepared to give it a try."

Mr Yam, meanwhile, will be focused on fund-raising.

He said: "There's a lot of hard work involved, a lot of talking to people and getting people to come on board.

"With funds coming in, we can develop new programmes and upscale existing ones... that's a key area I'd be focusing on."


This article was first published on August 26, 2014.
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