Feng Tian Wei just won an individual medal for Singapore, a feat last accomplished by a born and bred Singaporean some 52 years ago. Some would argue that nowadays, foreign talents can be found anywhere rendering their services to countries who are more than willing to adopt them as their own. For the less welcoming, their arguement would be that the glory was “bought”. Already, online buzz has it that the win is not truly by a Singaporean. To be fair, if Feng and the rest had stayed in China, they may not even make it to the national team and see themselves fighting for a medal in the Olympics. So, do foreign talents who delivered the goods deserve the rewards? I’m all for may the best man/woman wins and whatever rewards that comes along the way. I guess it isn’t so for some and this whole idea of foreign talent, especially those brought in through sports runs a lot deeper than this.
First and foremost, we need to examine why our highest gold medal achievement from a local athelete is in the Asian games, before China’s rise as a global sports power. Tao Li, Feng and company all hailed from China in their early years. Even in the SEA Games, our dominance by local atheletes only extends to the water sports. As for the other disciplines, we only get a splattering of winners every now and then. Are we a sports nation, when strictly local born atheletes are rallied upon to deliver the goods? I must admit, Singapore do have alot of facilities for sports enthusiasts, enough for some countries turn green with envy. But….this is where the difference lies. Some of those countries which have less actually produces a lot more world class atheletes than we. Why is that so, one might ask?
I guess part of it lies on the mental strength and discipline and at the same time, also the circumstances surrounding Singapore’s own survival in this complex world we live in. People of my generation and before have been ingrained with the fact that sports are mostly done to keep fit and for the occasional competition at a low level. Even nationally, our benchmark isn’t high. Just look at football. Singapore pays almost, if not the, highest cable fees in the world just to watch club level football in England. Despite such fanatical support for the sport, where is our own national team rank, worldwide? I rest my case.
As parents, we inculcate almost the same principals to our kids. Getting a good education is the key to a good carreer and ultimately a comfortable retirement. For most of us, chasing the dream usually means getting the standard of living we desire. Though there’s nothing wrong in that, reaching the highest level internationally is a whole new ball game. Life as a professional athelete is short and many here cannot see what becomes of life after retirement. Also, admittedly, only a handful have the talent and the potential to reach such heights. But that shouldn’t stop the majority from practising the Olympic spirit in whatever they do. I do not know what exactly the Olympic spirit stand for but my own observation is that giving 100% isn’t quite enough; it has got to be the performance of the lifetime. Somehow, local born Singaporeans just can’t measure up when it matters most. It’s especially sad given the fact that in many other fields we win awards quite regularly. Could it be that our Singaporeans’ genes are inferior because we have been brought up in such comfort that those with the talent simply cannot muscle enough effort to realise their potential? All the financial incentives the various government bodies provide will not be enough; encouragement must be self motivated and the ambition to succeed must burn like a wild fire. The likes of our foreign born table tennis players deserves to be emulated, their desire to excel at the highest level must be ingrained in our younger generation of atheletes so that in time we can finally come out of our shells and become true champions in our own right.
It’s a tall order. I sincerely hope the day can come soon enough.