When Fencing Singapore (FS) President Juliana Seow was made Vice-President of the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) in 2020 in the midst of a pandemic, she was quoted as saying that “I truly believe that sport helps to build character especially in these circumstances when we need a lot of resilience to push ourselves through.”
But yet when 2021 Southeast Asian Games gold medallist Samson Lee missed three national training sessions because of extenuating circumstances and yet still continued to train on his own, the association she leads made a decision to drop him from the national fencing team headed to the upcoming Cambodian SEA Games to be held from 5 to 17 May.
This despite the athlete having to cope with becoming a new father after the delivery of his first child with wife and former national fencer Cheryl Lim, having to ensure the wellbeing of his own father who had suffered a stroke, and also while looking after his SG Academy of Fencing business.
Precisely the kind of attributes Seow herself was referring to in her public statements after she ascended to the VP-ship of the national Olympic body in 2020.
FS did not respond to queries when it was asked about the dropping of Lee from the team, and also told the Straits Times that the issue was considered closed.
However, FS and its leadership team should not be let off so easily after its despicable act against an athlete who had qualified for the SEA Games through merit, and for both the individual and team events.
Which is why TMSG is raising the decibel on the matter.
Especially after we have discovered that FS has now allegedly asked Lee to remove his Instagram post about his exclusion from the SEA Games or risk having the NSA put one up about him.
That information was relayed by Lee’s wife in an Instagram story posted on 27 April.
A QUICK BACKGROUND
On 23 April, 2021 SEA Games gold medallist in the team epee Lee put up an Instagram post sharing that he had been dropped from the 2023 SEA Games team despite having qualified for the individual and team events.
In his post, he said that he had missed three training sessions and despite his explanation to FS, he was given his marching orders.
See his post here.
In her Instagram story, Lee wife Lim said that FS called her husband “telling him not to engage with the media, reminding him of the Athlete Agreement” and to “agree that this case is closed and settled.”
Lee did not respond to any media queries when approached, either by TMSG or by national daily The Straits Times.
But despite him not engaging with any media, FS has now apparently asked that he remove his original Instagram post or “they will make an official post about him.”
How vindictive and totally unbecoming of a National Sports Association.
Lim added in her post that the fact of the matter was that Lee “apologised the moment he knew he missed the 3 training sessions and arranged the 4th” and said that her husband “never did he deny fault in missing the dates and the delay in reply.”
“All he did was to appeal for some compassion and understanding of his situation,” said Lim, who was a former SEA Games medallist herself.
WHO ARE THE ARBITERS OF SUCH ACTS?
Athletes like Lee who are faced with such atrocious behaviour from their National Sports Associations should have an opportunity for a swift recourse.
In this instance, shouldn’t Sport Singapore and the Ministry for Culture, Community and Youth rightfully step in and prevent such behaviour from taking root within sports organisations, especially if they receive funding from the taxpayers to fund their operations.
NSA leaders like Juliana Seow and her team need to remember that they are put in place to serve the athletes and the sports they represent, and leadership means being compassionate and empathetic to the very athletes they serve.
Without the athletes, they have no role to play.
MAIN PHOTOS: SNOC/SGOLYMPICS
TMSG awaits Juliana Seow’s response to this article and queries sent. Readers who have an opinion on this matter can email us at HELLO@TMSG.SG