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Some 'very encouraging' Team SG performances at Olympics; those who turn in disappointing performances need space: Edwin Tong

Some 'very encouraging' Team SG performances at Olympics; those who turn in disappointing performances need space: Edwin Tong

Singapore's athletes march into the stadium for the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics on Jul 23, 2021. (Photo: Kong Chong Yew/SNOC)

ENOSHIMA, Japan: Singapore’s athletes, more than anybody else, are disappointed when they do not perform, and there is a limit when it comes to criticism of their efforts, said Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong on Monday (Aug 2).

Speaking to CNA on the sidelines of the Tokyo Olympics, Mr Tong also said that there have been a number of “very encouraging” performances at Tokyo 2020 so far.

But where there have been disappointing performances, "athletes do have a responsibility to be accountable", he said. 

"Of course, when they perform badly, I think they have to stand up for it and they have to explain. But I think I draw the line when criticism becomes personal, becomes malicious,” said Mr Tong, speaking to CNA on the sidelines of the Tokyo Olympics.

“There is constructive and unconstructive criticism and suggestions. So I would say for now, give our athletes some space, they will be the most disappointed honestly; it's not that they don't know.”

READ: Badminton: Singapore's Loh Kean Yew falls to Indonesia's Christie in thriller, eliminated from Olympics

Among the encouraging performances that Mr Tong highlighted was badminton player Loh Kean Yew, who was narrowly eliminated in the group stages by Asian Games champion Jonatan Christie; fencers Amita Berthier and Kiria Tikanah; and table tennis player Yu Mengyu.

'He (Kean Yew) matched Jonatan Christie stroke for stroke and you must remember that Jonatan is the reigning Asian Games champion, world number seven," said Mr Tong of the men's singles player.

"There was really nothing to choose between them in the match, and Kean Yew lost by a whisker. I think all in that has shown me there is great potential and now what is important is what we do with it now."

Singapore's Loh Kean Yew hits a shot to Indonesia's Jonatan Christie in their men's singles badminton group stage match during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Musashino Forest Sports Plaza in Tokyo on Jul 28, 2021. (Photo: Alexander NEMENOV/AFP)

Mr Tong noted that the athletes' showing has also been an encouragement to him.

“They really put in their all and had a couple of very encouraging performances despite results not going their way,” he said.

“We have a lot to work with. And that has really encouraged me.”


Singapore's Joseph Schooling competes in a heat for the men's 100m butterfly swimming event during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on Jul 29, 2021. (Photo: AFP/Jonathan Nackstrand)

When asked about Singaporean swimmer Joseph Schooling, who failed to make the semi-finals of the 100m butterfly five years after he won gold at the Rio Olympics, Mr Tong said it was important to give “some space”.

“His results were disappointing, I think he'll be the first to admit it, but at the same time I think let's not overthink it as well and not over comment, I would say, let's give that some space,” he noted.

“Let him think about what he wants to do. And I'm sure that between him, his family, his coach, the NSA (national sport association), they will work out a path forward.”

READ: Outpouring of support will spur me on, says Joseph Schooling after Olympics exit
READ: Commentary: We need to talk about why Joseph Schooling crashed in Tokyo

All of Singapore’s swimmers - Schooling, Quah Ting Wen and Quah Zheng Wen - did not advance to the semi-finals of their events, with no personal bests set.

And Mr Tong noted that it has been a “tough” Olympics for them.

“It’s been (a) disappointing and tough Olympics for the swimmers, I think they'll be the first to admit it. So we really have to go back to the drawing board and see what else we can do,” he said:

“We have a good pipeline, which is half the battle won, and I think we need to now see how we can strengthen the coaching, competitions and also the exposure for this, for the up-and-coming swimmers.”

Quah Zheng Wen competes in his men's 100m backstroke heat at Tokyo Olympics on Jul 25, 2021. (Photo: Kong Chong Yew/SNOC)

Schooling and Quah were granted an extension of their their full-time National Service deferment last year by the Ministry of Defence.

This was to allow them to train for, and compete in, the Tokyo Olympics.

When asked what the next steps could be for both swimmers moving forward, Mr Tong said that it was “still very early”.

“I think frankly it's still very early to come round to a landing on this. There are a couple of variables, obviously you know what is the timing, what are the plans for Zheng and for Joe,” he said.

“Let's take it step by step. My advice to Joe when I chatted with him the day after his heats was just to free his mind, not think about it; keep an open mind, and to take some time away from the swimming - and then come back and discuss his plans.”

Additional reporting by Michiyo Ishida.

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Source: CNA/rw


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