On Feb 11, just after 4 in the afternoon, I received a call from a reporter. Teo Ser Luck, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS), had brought up once again Singapore's "stretched goal" of sending athletes to the Winter Olympics.
What do I think are our chances?
Clearly optimistic, I quickly launched into how we already have figure skating underway, with SISA in the ISU, and so why not? After all, we have skaters who are showing a great deal of promise:
- Brittany Lau will be representing Singapore at the 2010 World Junior Figure Skating Championships at The Hague in early March
- Leong Kai Jing is the only skater who has passed the SISA Senior test, and I'm sure she's keen to be representing Singapore soon!
What is needed for this to happen?
The first thing that comes to mind is an Olympic size rink. Certainly facilities play a crucial part in training, and it has, admittedly, been rather difficult to train in a small rink and then expect to do well in a full-size rink.
However, just having a facility may not be sufficient. If skaters have to contend with public, it is not only difficult to work on programs, it can also become dangerous to the skaters (as well as the public). Skaters need to have ice time specifically for training purposes.
The next question that really threw me was:
So, if SSC or SNOC puts in facilities and funding, Singapore will be able to send someone to the Olympics in 2014?
Well, not really... skaters can't just train and then go to the Olympics. Skaters need exposure. Skaters need motivation. And of course, we first need to have skaters! In an article in the Sunday Times, SISA president said something about needing funding "to set up programs overseas". Don't we first need programs locally? No wonder Singaporeans are fuming on the online forums...
Our local skater base is slowly shrinking. Due in part to the lack of facilities, and due in part to the lack of support - not exactly financial support, but moral support for skaters in general.
Yes, that is it - the sport needs support. Support from the facility management, from the Association and from the Sports Council. It is not enough to pump in money. A good, solid base needs to be built from which to identify and grow our next talents.
Kazakhstan can field a respectable athlete for Men's figure skating (Denis Ten finished 11th at the Olympics). I don't see why Singapore cannot.
[PS: why am I still so optimistic?]