Athletics: Record-holders hit a bump

They are among a whole host of athletes preparing for major challenges in the next 14 months.

Triple jumper Stefan Tseng is working towards the 28th South-east Asia (SEA) Games, which Singapore will host in June next year, while pole vaulter Rachel Yang (inset) is hoping to qualify for September's Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea.

Both have hit a roadblock in their preparations.

Earlier this week, Tseng, 24, found out he was no longer carded by Sport Singapore when he tried to make bookings for a sports massage and physiotherapy session.

The Loughborough University biology undergraduate, who is back in Singapore over the month-long Easter break, told The New Paper yesterday: "The woman at the other end of the line said she couldn't find my records, but she later messaged me to say that I was not carded."

But the national record-holder, who set the mark of 16.04m in 2009, is peeved that he will not receive support this year.

He said: "As I understand it, the carding process is done yearly; it's not the allowance I am looking for but I need treatment for my ankle and I have to pay for my own treatment now."

Carding with the national body is split into different tiers according to the performance and potential of the athlete, and the programme gives him access to medical and career assistance, as well as stipends to defray training costs.

While Tseng had been out of action for almost an entire year after undergoing ankle surgery in March last year, he thought the 15.10m distance he recorded at the Indoor Athletic Championships in Sheffield last year ranked him No. 1 in Singapore, and therefore eligible for support.

An athlete who wins gold at a national open qualifies under the second-lowest of the five carding tiers.

But, when contacted yesterday, Singapore Athletic Association (SAA) president Tang Weng Fei said: "Athletes must be able to achieve the criteria to receive carding and not feel entitled to it just because they are the best in the country. There must be cut-offs somewhere because this is public funds we are talking about."


In the past, Tseng made the carding list because he was within 5 per cent of the bronze-medal distance of the previous SEA Games.

But his 15.10m effort last year fell short of the latest 15.45m benchmark, and he was therefore not nominated for carding.

Yang, meanwhile, is waiting to see if she can compete in the Busan International Pole Vault Meet next month.

She and her coach, David Yeo, had planned for her to compete in Busan to qualify for this year's Asian Games, and the SAA had said it would send the top male and female vaulters to the Busan meet.

The national record-holder - she posted the height of 3.82m in 2011 - recorded a 3.40m effort at a meet in Johor and thought it was enough for her to qualify as the top female vaulter.

But the South Korean organisers later told the SAA that only Sean Lim made the cut.

Said Tang: "The organisers had a technical meeting and decided that the starting height would be 3.60m and that Rachel did not qualify."

But Tang confirmed the SAA will submit an appeal for Yang today.

Tseng, meanwhile, said: "I'm actually happy to go back to the UK because I get access to physio and massages at my university.

"The university kept me on my scholarship programme even though I was injured last year and I feel happier representing them."

This article was published on April 24 in The New Paper.

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