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Watching the London Olympic Games this year has left me with a string of thoughts.
Being a supportive Singaporean, I decided to watch every game that Singapore took part in. Seeing our flag on the podium churned out some feelings deep down inside, and I believe every Singapore feels the same. At the same time, I questioned why we only took part in so few events.
This time around, Singapore won bronze in table tennis, and those were the only 2 medals we won. Some might say it’s a good start for Singapore. But while enjoying the games, it hit upon me why our Singapore team didn’t make it far with so much talent and unpolished gems in our little country.
I watched the London Olympic Games often, at places with different people, great atmosphere where people cheer for their favourite athletes, but somehow there seemed to be a few constant topics.
The coffee shop talks, from those market aunties, school boys and even working adults always go like, “Ayia, Singapore cannot make it one”, “Win also no use, all foreign talent”, “Singapore no hope”. It seems like even Singaporeans, citizens of our own nation, don’t believe that one of our own can win any medals. Hearing those comments made me ponder, and it got me thinking…
Is our Singapore system to blame? Even Singaporeans think this way about our own athletes? We lost faith in our athletes mainly because of the perception passed down by the previous generation, always pushing us so hard on academics, and branding athletes, musicians or artists as “no future” or “wouldn’t go far”. More than often, you’ll hear parents telling their children these jobs or careers have no future and they will not earn enough to be rich.
This is where the fault lies, the root of our failure in sports, even before we begin. Singapore prides itself on coming up on top globally in many fields, its economy and education system. But doing well in the Olympics has remained only in the chats of most Singaporeans.
A widely known fact is that athletes in Singapore are not well paid, and sport is not as prioritised as academics. Compared to the various countries, and even the US (a country in debt), the amount of money they pump into their athletes and training, is huge compared to Singapore. By only giving so little to nurturing our athletes, clearly shows that we don’t really want it.
Young athletes find themselves struggling with training schedules, with pressure to perform well in school. As academic excellence is still valued above all else in Singapore. I have a couple of friends who struggled in many ways in order to continue doing athletes, sacrificing both academics and time. They have to give up more time for training, but still have to pay for their own sporting equipment, travel, lunch and dinner during training days. A friend on the national team told me their “incentive” was so little that it was barely enough, and they could afford to do this only during school years. Then, they will have to give up their dreams in exchange for a stable job.
In the recent years, our government has been building sports school and trying to inject sports into the next generation. That is good effort and well appreciated. But that’s to plan for the future. What about our generation? We let so much hidden talent go to waste. Still, that’s not the root of the problem. Fundamentally, Singapore lacks a real sporting culture.
It’s a fact that with our 23-strong team, we only took part in a few sporting events in the London Olympics. By only taking part in so few events, how can we expect to win more medals? The more you try, the more you participate, the higher your chances of winning. Many said that in Singapore, “when a young athlete is spotted, it is more by chance.” But need that be the case? Do we need to recruit Foreign talent again?
The answer is no. We only need to look the right way. There are actually many opportunities and talents we can capitalize on. A good example is our army, the national service where every male in Singapore will have to go through 2 years of their life, whether we like it or not.
Let me give some examples.
Our commandos and Special Forces, they train hard, run long distances on a daily basis. They have the physical capabilities and mental strength. During times of distress, these cream of the crop will be at the front lines protecting our country. But during times of peace, shouldn’t we put them to good use too? They could join the Olympic games running marathons, distance running 10k 15k. All they need is proper training and guidance. They are the diamonds in the rough, waiting to be polished. I have personally seen commando friends of mine running 400m in under 48secs even without starter blocks!
Our naval divers and seal team who swim up to 10hours a day, shouldn’t we put them into good use and start training them for Olympic swim events? I’m sure our fastest swimmer in the navy will be able to qualify in Olympics.
Our army produces thousands of marksman, sharp shooters and snipers every year. Why not pick those with high potential and train them for shooting events in the Olympics?
Another source of strength is the “BMT Eagle Company”, famous for overweight enlistees, they are bigger in size and have no desire to run everyday to “lose weight” and eventually sent them to vocations to be a store-man, drivers or clerks. So instead of forcing them to run and slim down, shouldn’t we embrace their physical size, and train them for shot-put and weight lifting events? For Albert Einstein once said, if your judge a fish by its ability to swim it will forever think it’s stupid.
The rebellious youths on our streets, who so often get into fights, angry youths who don’t change despite hours of counseling. Why not harness them positively and channel their anger and energy into sports such as boxing and judo events? Let them do what they do best. Teach them, train them, this will keep them off the streets and change them for better future. Mike Tyson once said what made him great is the desire to fight, the fire inside them to win, which is existent in our rebellious youths.
These are just some areas we can look into. We are all rough diamonds that needs to be polished – our raw talent, fighting spirits and desire, this is our time. Start training now and in four years time, all sons and daughters of Singapore may see the Singapore flag fly high and we can be proud of our little nation.
Let us change Singapore together.