Say yes to weightlifting, please

Say yes to weightlifting, please
NATION'S PRIDE: Former weightlifter Tan Howe Liang, hoisting the SIngapore flag at the National Stadium Closing Event in 2007, won a silver at the 1960 Rome Olympic Games (inset).

SINGAPORE - Football is the most popular sport in the country, Singaporeans of every creed and colour play the game, they all will be found in the stands when the Lions come out to roam.

If football sits alone as the people's game here, then swimming, badminton, athletics, bowling, sailing and shooting occupy a seat at the same table.

Along with weightlifting and now table tennis, I would think.

All these sports show off a proud history in Singapore, with star names, medals, milestones and memorable marks part of their folklore.

All except weightlifting will be on the programme at the 28th South-east Asia (SEA) Games, which Singapore will host in June next year.

It is a shame.

Some of the weightlifting officials from regional heavyweights travelled here on Wednesday to make a presentation and file an appeal to the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) for the sport's inclusion next year.

PROVIDE EXPERTISE

They were willing to provide the expertise - both technical and financial, worth $1 million - to ensure weightlifting will be carried off successfully at the Games and help grow the sport here.

But Dr Tan Eng Liang, the SNOC vice-president, and Chris Chan, the secretary general, rejected the appeal.

The decision is puzzling.

Singapore Weightlifting Federation (SWF) president Tom Liaw had hoped to have the sport in the international limelight at the 2015 Games, he believes his athletes also have a shot at bagging a couple of medals.

With the sport still trying to re-establish itself after years in the wilderness, in all likelihood gold will be out of reach, especially when there are a sprinkling of world-class weightlifters in Thailand and Indonesia.

Crucially, though, having weightlifting on the Singapore stage next year is the logical next step in the effort to continue to blow wind in the sails of the sport, after it took a bow at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games here in 2010.

Petanque is among the 36 sports set to feature at the SEA Games in 2015, although the final list will be ratified by the end of this month.

I can imagine many will wonder how petanque can best weightlifting in the programme, but this is a particular quirk of the SEA Games.

SNOC's Chan attested to that fact when he said more member nations backed petanque than weightlifting.

Even so, this is a missed opportunity for Singapore weightlifting.

Chan says the organisers have reached the limit with 36 sports and they have had to turn away many other appeals.

Surely an exception can be made for weightlifting, which takes up a significant chunk of the Singapore sports story.

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