SEA Games: Singapore appoints 2 chefs de mission in a first

As a cub reporter with dreams of athletic success, a 16-year-old Nicholas Fang was all caught up in the excitement and fanfare of the 1993 South-east Asia (SEA) Games.

Held in Singapore, he watched, listened and learnt from the best athletes in the region strutting their stuff.

Twenty years and two SEA Games fencing bronze medals later, Fang is once again feeling the same sort of excitement.

Singapore will hold the 28th SEA Games in June next year and Fang is already looking forward to learning, and perhaps even emulating, some of the best - albeit in a different capacity.

Yesterday, the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) named veteran sports administrator Tan Eng Liang, 76, and 38-year-old Fang as the Republic's chefs de mission (CDM) for the 2015 Games, which will coincide with the country's 50th year of independence.

Expecting an unusually large Team Singapore contingent of around 600 athletes, this is the first time the SNOC have appointed two CDMs and the duo will share the workload in creating a conducive environment for the Republic's best sportsmen and women to do battle.

Speaking to The New Paper yesterday, Fang said: "Dr Tan has been there, done that in just about every aspect of sports here, he's even helmed the contingent at the Olympics."

"And I can't say this enough - it's a great chance to learn."

A former national waterpolo player, Dr Tan is an Olympian and a former Member of Parliament (1972 to 1980).

EXPERIENCED

He was CDM of the Singapore team at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, when the Republic's women's table tennis team won a silver - the first Olympic medal since Tan Howe Liang's weightlifting silver in 1960.

"I have been working with him for the last few months already, as part of committees he leads - I do that as a member of the SNOC (of which Dr Tan is a vice-president)."

"And it's good to see his style because in local sports administration, he really has been there and done that," said Fang, who is also the President of the Singapore Modern Pentathlon Association.

While he is much younger and far less experienced, Fang is not merely on a support mission and is already looking to impose his personality and perhaps influence a change.

"I want to dispel the notion that athletes feel a lot more pressure at a home Games because their parents, girlfriends, boyfriends, will be sitting in the front row and all eyes are on them," said Fang, who called for all of Singaporeans - not just athletes, coaches and officials - to be part of Team Singapore.

"In the tough times and the victories, we are all seeing it through together as Team Singapore."

Fang remembers local luminaries Ang Peng Siong and David Lim, and Indonesian swimmer Richard Sam Bera from the 1993 Singapore Games, and the effect they had on him.

"It was awesome, it made me want to experience the same, to compete at a home Games, but I'm not an athlete now," said Fang who, tongue-in-cheek, bemoaned the press release photograph that captured him as he was "breathing out".

Even though the athlete's desire still burns strong in him, Fang, who manages to find the time to hit the gym despite a hectic work schedule, is embracing a role on the other side of sports.

"Even as an administrator (being intimately involved in a home Games) is still really something."

"Being a CDM is already significant but, at home, on the country's 50th anniversary, at the new Singapore Sports Hub - this is just tremendous."

The expectations for Singapore as hosts... are building up... I am very happy to lead the Singapore contingent with Nicholas Fang, a very enthusiastic and approachable young leader, who will be a great asset to the team. 

This article was published on May 7 in The New Paper.

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