Woffles Wu wants to give squash a facelilft

SINGAPORE - His seasoned hands have handled thousands of surgeries in his 24-year career as a plastic surgeon but Woffles Wu's next operation will be of a different nature.

Elected unopposed as the new president of the Singapore Squash Rackets Association (SSRA) on Monday, the 53-year-old is hoping to give the sport a much-needed "facelift".

To do so, the avid recreational player, who tries to hit the courts every day, plans to begin from the bottom.

"We need to start from the base of the pyramid - which means we need to get more kids involved and interested," he said.

"That is the most important thing for our sport right now."

Wu replaces Desmond Hill who completed his eight-year tenure as president.

Squash enjoyed a golden era in the 1970s and 1980s when the nation's players were considered the kingpins of the region.

Since then, it has never recaptured those glory days with few picking up the sport nowadays.

Wu believes that the solution to revitalising his sport is to increase the participation of the younger generation.

He noted that, at last year's schools nationals, only 12 schools took part. He hopes to grow this number by encouraging at least three new schools a year to pick up the sport.

A former national snooker player, Wu started his love affair with squash when he was 19.

He said: "Although I represented the country in snooker, I've been a passionate squash player for more than half my life.

"It has been my form of exercise and it's a challenging sport learning the techniques and how to get better and better."

This is Wu's second stint as a sports administrator. He was a vice-president in snooker's national body in the 1980s.

It took the squash community three years to persuade him to run for president.

"A few of the committee members spoke to me a few years ago but I didn't know enough then about the scene and the different club policies," he explained.

"I took the last three years to formulate my thoughts on how to bring the game forward."

Some feel that Wu's strong social connections, forged from his job as a renowned plastic surgeon, can also help the sport draw more funding from sponsors.

Said SSRA treasurer Pang Cheong Yan: "He's got extremely broad connections and understands the strengths of people and how to tap on them. He's a really good leader."

The sport, which gets less than $200,000 from the Singapore Sports Council, depends on other avenues, such as sponsorship, to fund operations.

Said Hill: "Being president is a thankless task. One who does not have squash in his heart will never do it."

ugenec@sph.com.sg


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