Singapore national hurdler files official complaint accusing coach of misconduct

Singapore national hurdler files official complaint accusing coach of misconduct

Kerstin Ong met with disapproval when she first spoke out, but the ongoing #metoo campaign has helped her realise “if it’s wrong, it’s wrong”.

File picture of Singapore national hurdler Kerstin Ong (Photo: XYZ Photos)

SINGAPORE: National hurdler Kerstin Ong has lodged an official complaint with governing body Sport Singapore (SportSG) accusing a former coach of misconduct.

In a statement on Tuesday (Jan 9) signed by the 20-year-old and seen by Channel NewsAsia, Ong describes verbal and physical behaviour by the former coach which left her “uncomfortable”.

According to her statement, she initially took the matter to Singapore Athletics (SA) and the association went about interviewing the relevant athletes in her training group.

But Ong said some of her teammates – who were either witnesses if not on the receiving end of the coach’s conduct - feigned ignorance when questioned, and later retracted statements which backed up her account.

She explained: “They were upset I reported it. They said I should always try to solve it from within. I guess you’re always taught to protect your coach.

“They started ignoring me... I was really sad, they were friends and they turned against me,” said Ong, tearing at the memory.

Reluctant to make these teammates any unhappier with her, Ong decided to let the matter slide when both her family and SA moved to make a police report.

“Because it wasn’t pursued, a lot of people subsequently thought I was lying,” she said.

“HARD TO BE CONFRONTATIONAL”

Then in October last year the #metoo movement went viral, with millions around the world using the social media hashtag to share experiences of sexual assault and harassment.

One of them was Hong Kong hurdler Vera Lui, a friend and competitor to Ong. It was Lui’s decision to voice out which gave the Singaporean the “strength” to step forward - and encourage others to do the same.

“If it’s wrong, it’s wrong… We don’t have to be afraid, and we shouldn’t tolerate this. Why must somebody suffer in silence?"

She added: “I think in sports, it’s very common. I’m talking about this so maybe other athletes can come forward as well.”

Ong however admitted it was “hard to be confrontational”.

“You always respect your coach so you don’t really get angry with him, and I also didn’t dare ….” she trailed off.

“But from the start, I should have said ‘Coach, I don’t think this is acceptable’ - before it became worse.”

When contacted, SA president Ho Mun Cheong would only say: “We have already terminated his service. The case is already closed.”

“If it’s a criminal case and the coach is found guilty, the association will let the court have final judgment. We don’t wish to comment any further.”

And in response to queries, SportSG stated: “We received an official complaint against a coach from an athlete on Tuesday, 9 January 2018.”

“Having reviewed the contents of the complaint, we have advised the athlete to make a police report,” said Toh Boon Yi, chief of SportSG’s Singapore Sport Institute.

“SportSG will not be making any further comments on this matter.”

Source: CNA/jo

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