Thong to attack in-fighting

The new man in the hot seat at the Singapore Karate-do Federation (SKF) - interim president David Thong - is confident he can save the sport from suffering a knock-out.

The sport has taken blow after blow in recent weeks, starting from its omission from the final list of 36 sports at next June's SEA Games in Singapore.

The in-fighting within the fraternity has also drawn attention. Four clubs wrote to The Straits Times two weeks ago to dispute SKF's claims that open selections for the national team were held.

The fallout claimed a victim when Peter Chong resigned as president last week, citing irreconcilable differences with the current management.

But Thong, 52, who will be interim president until an annual general meeting in September, is looking forward to forging a new path.

Previously the first vice-president, he said: "SKF is committed to (carrying) out all the programmes it already outlined in its multi-year sports plan."

Chief on his list of priorities is resolving the in-fighting which has plagued the sport since the 1990s. The then Singapore Sports Council - now Sport Singapore - had to step in twice to mediate between the federation and local karate clubs over affiliation issues and representation for the national team.

In 2011, the SKF expelled seven clubs for defamation. They had also banded to form the Karate-Do Union of Singapore.

Amid the in-fighting, karate managed to bag a silver and two bronzes at the 2009 and 2011 SEA Games. Singapore did not compete in karate at last December's Myanmar SEA Games.

Thong, who also coaches the national team, said: "SKF is adamant that the bad habits of the infighting that has preceded this new management in 2009 cannot be carried into the new SKF post- 2014."

He is certain that the troubles at management level will not spill over to the national team.

He said: "Our athletes, albeit disappointed (at missing out on next year's SEA Games), will remain committed to train in order to represent Singapore at the 2017 SEA Games.

"We have already lined (up) an overseas training and competition programme in Japan, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Vietnam."

Still, not all are convinced Thong is the man to reinvigorate the local karate scene.

A member of the fraternity, who declined to be named, said: "In terms of administration, David is up for the job but I'm not sure he is the man to unite the SKF and the non-affiliate clubs.

"Some still feel aggrieved about his role in the mass expulsion in 2011, and do not want to work with him."

However, Thong said: "If they sincerely want to move the sport forward, we welcome them to join us. We have rules on management, training, communications, appeal - everyone should subscribe to these for the sake of the sport, and to ensure transparency, accountability and good management of our athletes."

This article was published on May 12 in The Straits Times.

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