Humbled, grateful to win

Humbled, grateful to win

New Singapore Athletics (SA) president Lien Choong Luen has vowed to repay the faith shown in him and his team, who were voted into power by an emphatic margin at the fraternity’s annual general meeting last night.

The general manager of ride-hailing app Gojek defeated lawyer Edmond Pereira 14-3 at the track and field body’s elections at the Nexus Auditorium in Cuppage Plaza.

Lien’s entire nine-man slate was also voted into the management committee, with each of them receiving at least 14 of the 17 valid votes.

However, the position each elected member will take up on the MC will be confirmed only after its first meeting. There will also be two non-elected members of the committee: the executive director and an athletes’ commission representative.

Lien, 43, said he and his team were “humbled and very grateful” by the backing they received from the affiliates, but said he was under no illusions about the difficulties they face in reviving the ailing sport.

“There’s really strong support for the work we’ve done and the potential for the plans we’ve outlined,” he noted. “But really, as I’ve told my team, talk is cheap.

“Now is the time for us to deliver on what we have promised to do.”

In the lead-up to the elections, Lien’s team announced they had secured $100,000 in donations to get their plans going if voted into power.

These plans – covering access and development support, competition opportunities, athlete management and strengthening governance – include turning institutes of higher learning into regional training centres, and providing coaches for athletes from schools that do not focus on athletics, among others.

For Pereira, 70, a stalwart of the local scene, last night’s defeat meant he has now lost the bid for the SA top job four times, after previous defeats in 1984, 2000 and 2016.

Crestfallen, he said: “There’s not much to say, the affiliates have spoken.

THE HARD WORK STARTS NOW

There’s really strong support for the work we’ve done and the potential for the plans we’ve outlined. But really, as I’ve told my team, talk is cheap.

Now is the time for us to deliver on what we have promised to do.

LIEN CHOONG LUEN, Gojek general manager and new Singapore Athletics president, on the task ahead.

“Hopefully they (the fraternity) will have the objective to move the sport forward. Time will tell.”

But he may yet have a part to play as Lien said he planned to meet Pereira soon to explore how he can “get the best of everybody’s efforts” in moving the sport forward.

SA is currently involved in legal proceedings with two-time SEA Games marathon gold medallist Soh Rui Yong over comments made regarding his omission from the 2019 Games.

Aside from the court proceedings, the fraternity has produced negative headlines in recent years over numerous internal spats.

The disharmony has affected athletes’ performances, as seen in last year’s SEA Games, when the team failed to win a single gold medal at the biennial meet for the first time since 1991.

In his farewell message to the community, outgoing president Tang Weng Fei, who had declined to stand again, noted this, saying: “We are falling behind our neighbours, and this is a wake-up call not just for the association, but for the coaches and athletes as well.”

He added: “SAA’s priority should always be our athletes.”