Singaporean coaches make mark

Singaporean coaches make mark
PHOTO: Margaret Oh

When Shanti Peirera sprinted to a historic gold medal last month, there was no one cheering louder inside the National Stadium than her coach of four years, Margaret Oh.

In many ways, the 18-year-old's win in the women's 200m was also a triumph for Oh and other local coaches, many of whom enjoyed a successful outing at the SEA Games on home soil.

Besides Shanti, Oh also trained long jumper Eugenia Tan, who became the first Singaporean woman to clear the six-metre mark in her discipline.

In all, the Republic's contingent of 74 track and field athletes - many of whom are trained by local coaches - produced 26 personal bests (PBs), nine national records and nine medals over the seven-day athletics competition.

Said Oh, a former national sprinter: "It showed that local coaches can produce results with athletes on the international stage."

Sure enough, local athletes mentored by home-grown coaches have set several athletic milestones.

Pole vaulter Rachel Yang won Singapore's first-ever medal in the event. High jumper Michelle Sng and discus thrower Hannah Lee also earned their maiden Games medals.

They are trained by ex-national athletes David Yeo, James Wong and Chan See Huey respectively.

Such success has not come overnight but through years of dedication and building deep relationships from young which only local coaches can provide, noted Singapore Athletics vice-president (competitions organising) Loh Chan Pew.

He said: "It proves that local coaches are in no way inferior to foreign ones."

Added Sng, 28: "(Coach Chan) has always supported me since I was 14, and for her to be there with me when I won a medal was a very special moment."

Away from athletics, the contributions of local coaches were also evident in what was a record-breaking performance by Singapore athletes at the Games, after they won 84 golds and 259 medals in total.

Sports like bowling, waterski, taekwondo and floorball all had a local face at the helm and delivered golds at the biennial Games.

Brothers Howard and Keith Saw bagged an unexpected bowling doubles title, and paid tribute to national coach Remy Ong.

Said Keith: "He pushed us really hard and sometimes it felt too much, but it was because he believed in us and now we have won gold thanks to him."

Nothing was more satisfying than seeing their young charges blossom into champions, added Jamie Cheong, coach of the women's floorball team.

However, what local coaches do perhaps lack compared to their international peers such as Ruth Aitken (netball), Sergio Lopez (swimming), Michel Sablon (football) and Babella Balazs (canoeing) is international exposure, a key component of any world-class coach.

However, sending coaches for overseas exposure is hardly a priority among the local sports associations.

Said Lee Sai Meng, coach of the men's water polo team: "Why do we believe it's important to send our athletes for overseas competitions to improve but not our coaches?

"There are a lot of good coaches here in every sport, but they can only get better if they get the right support."

jonwong@sph.com.sg

siangyee@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on July 01, 2015.
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