Olympics: Medals not sole measure of success for Team S'pore, say senior officials

SINGAPORE – Team Singapore won medals at three consecutive Olympic Games but returning from Tokyo empty-handed would not necessarily mean an unsuccessful campaign for its athletes, senior sports figures said on Tuesday (July 6).

In a virtual press conference to give updates on the athletes’ preparations for the July 23-Aug 8 Games, Singapore’s chef de mission Benedict Tan and Singapore Sports Institute (SSI) chief Toh Boon Yi insisted medals were not the only way to measure success.

Former national sailor Tan, who competed at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, said that solely relying on medals as a benchmark might give “a skewed picture”, particularly given the challenges surrounding this edition of the Games, which has been disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Stressing that he did not want to set a medal target, Toh added: “If I have to choose between a medal and a situation where we are immensely proud of our athlete’s performance, but maybe that doesn’t come with a medal and the whole country rallies behind them, it’s a very clear choice for me. I would choose the latter, because that stands for Team Singapore.”

Agreeing, Tan cited an act of sportsmanship as an example of something that would be “worth more than a medal”. He also highlighted how systems in place have allowed for more diversity – Singapore will be represented by 23 athletes in a record 12 sports in Tokyo – and that this was also a barometer of success.

Still, Toh outlined high-performance targets for Singapore’s athletes in Tokyo, with personal bests, season bests, and national records the expectation.

He said: “Whether it’s a personal best, or beating the opponent they have met before, but lost to… Better themselves. That is the success I would like to see our athletes (have).

“Trust the process, control the controllables… On a good day, I would say our athletes can beat anybody. We saw that five years ago in Rio.”

At the Rio Games in 2016, swimmer Joseph Schooling made history by winning Singapore’s first gold medal when he beat American superstar Michael Phelps in the 100m fly.

Schooling, 26, will head into Tokyo with rivals like 24-year-old Caeleb Dressel of the United States and 21-year-old Kristof Milak of Hungary – who between them have clocked seven of the eight fastest times in the event in the world in 2021 – among those aiming to dethrone him.

Toh said that Schooling’s performance in Tokyo is eagerly awaited, but regardless of the outcome, his history-making feat is “something no one can take from him”.

“We ask that Joseph goes there and does us proud, and gives us the swim of his life,” added Toh.

“The circumstances are different… but we know what he is capable of. I say don’t write him off. Some may say he is going in as an underdog but I will look at him as going into the race a defending champion.”

Toh also highlighted the sustained efforts of the entire sports ecosystem – athletes, coaches, parents, corporate sponsors and more – as being key to the “breadth and depth” of progress the nation’s athletes have made in high performance.

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Local telco Singtel, is among those contributing to the Team Singapore effort. A corporate sponsor of the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) for the past 10 years, SingTel is offering extensive roaming coverage for the contingent in Japan. Live coverage of the Games will also be available on Singtel TV and its video streaming platform CAST.

Singtel chief executive officer Yuen Kuan Moon noted that the athletes that have qualified despite the pandemic were an “inspiration” to all Singaporeans and said: “We wish them all the best and are proud to show our support with our connectivity services so they can stay well-connected and feel the virtual presence of family, friends and fans who are cheering them on back in Singapore.”

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