I've been spending a lot of time watching the Olympics. The excitement and entertainment started with the opening ceremony and has not stopped. The highlight for Singapore this year is winning our first medal in 48 years. There was some coffeeshop cynicism about how we found the talents to win and plenty of debate about whether it is right to import talents for the purpose of winning medals. I think what is important is these talents are trained in Singapore and provided the support and 'infrastructure' that allowed them to rise to top. We did not just pay money to bring in adults who were given instant citizenships to represent us. The International Table Tennis Federation passed a new rule this year banning players from switching national allegiance after the age of 21 to prevent countries from relying too much on imported talents.
After trying to win something for many years, we decided that we have import talent because Singapore is "too small" to produce olympic medallists. Singapore came close when Ang Peng Siong held the world best time in 1982 for the 50m freestyle. He was considered the world's fastest swimmer that year but unfortunately the 50m was not an olympic sport until 1986. At the SEA games, we usually win a disproportionate number of swimming medals against more populous nations. The reason for this is we have infrastructure in place before of the efforts of pioneers many years ago who loved the sport. The Chinese Swimming Club which started many years ago at East Coast used to swim in the open ocean and recruit members door to door to join their club. The unforgettable Dr. Chan Ah Kow who was a member trained his children to be top swimmers...Patricia Chan, Mark Chan.
Is it meaningful to import sportsmen to win medals if the interest is waning in a particular sports? The medal we win in a particular event reflects the coaching standards, national support and the passion of our people for that event. If we can only win by importing people, we have to keep importing people if we don't have Singaporeans passionate in that sport. Watching the Jamaicans in the sprint events leaves nobody with any doubt that are many boys and girls in Jamaica who love to sprint, they have world class coaches and all the infrastructure needed to produce world class sprinters. They completely dominated the sprint events in the Beijing Olympics winning more gold medals in these events than the rest of the world combined.
So how many people in Jamaica? 2.8M....if you're determined enough to achieve something, size doesn't matter. The other sport that the Jamaicans are good at is bobsled which is a Winter Olympics event and they won the gold medal in the World Push Bobsled in 2000. There is no snow in Jamaica but the Jamaican bobsled team is not going to let this stop them from doing well. This spirit and determination is captured in the move Cool Runnings and it tells us why they are so good at sports.