I didn't buy The New Paper since the English Premier League ended almost 3 weeks ago. A colleague who knew I run for fun, pointed out to The New Paper's headline (the smaller one on the right side bar) if I read about another champion being disqualified in a recent race, when we went to the petrol kiosk. I then stole a look at the photo and recognised that the face on the front page news. He was one of my Facebook's friend, Jacky Ong. Being a running enthusiast, I bought The New Paper to find out more about what had happened.
Well, apparently, the rules and regulations for the recently concluded Sundown Marathon, which also held races in the half marathon, and 10km run, stated that the minimum age for any participants is 18 years old. Unfortunately, Jacky was only 14 this year. So he resorted to taking on his girlfriend's father identity as they shared the same surname. (Note: Jacky was unable to use his dad's identity as his dad was running in the 10km race as well.) The issue arised when Jacky collected his 1st prize despite knowing that he broke the rules and regulations. (Note: There were 2 runners who finished the race faster than Jacky but they withdrew themselves from the award presentation knowing that they were running in someone else' bib). In the same page, Singapore Athletic Association (SAA) president Mr Tang Weng Fei remarked that "Jacky's is a talent that we need to capture", although he did maintained that what Jacky did was wrong.
Two days later (on Saturday), after coming back from a run at Pulau Ubin, I bought The New Paper while on my way home and I was shocked to read the main headline titled "Parents support boy. Mum says "I don't think it's cheating". So the saga didn't ended with Thurs' The New Paper as the reporter follow-up on the news by interviewing Jacky and his parents. In the interview, the parents justified why they did not think what their son did was wrong, as well as that their son did not have any unfair advantage over other runners since he was not ranked in the 50-age group (the age of Jacky's girlfriend's dad), although they did acknowledge that they will abide by the age restrictions (Note: By my interpretation, they said they would abide by age restriction but did not say specifically they will abide by the rules and regulations of the race) in future. By now, I was shaking my head in total bewilderment. Luckily, The New Paper's Sports Editor gave his views on the opposite page of the interview and highlighted that Jacky should do it the right way in his pursue to sports excellence.
The Sports Editor also sort views / comments from the readers, which appeared in Wed's The New Paper. 7 of of the 8 comments published were in general agreement with the views of the Sports Editor of The New Paper and SAA's President - that what Jacky did was not right. My own views are:
- Let's give Jacky a break. He's still a very young lad who just wanna run. In terms of athletic-age, he can be considered as someone just started out. Hence, he may not have the concept of winning in the right spirit - i.e. what sportsmanship is about. While what he did was not correct, bombarding him with words, calling him names, etc would not help him in anyway. Even if he didn't showed any remorse, we couldn't put the blame on him entirely, especially since he was misled by his parents. We all knew about his precocious talent. Let's help him in whatever way we could and hope he learned his lesson and become a better athlete: it's not how fast you run but how gracious you acknowledge someone slower as the legitimate winner.
- Despite being runners themselves, it was unbecoming of Jacky's parents to find ways to defend why their son did not have unfair advantage nor what their son did was right. They failed to see that when Jacky took the 1st prize even though he was ineligible to take part, he had deprived someone else who was the rightful winner! (I'm assuming that everyone in the Open Category is of the same playing field and no one had any advantage/disadvantage). I wondered: if someone who's not eligible, ran faster than Jacky in a national meet and deprived Jacky of his 1st prize, would they be so kind as to allow the ineligible runner to be declared as worthy winner. As adults, they should guide their son the proper path to take and not giving justification on why their son had not done anything wrong.
- I was appalled by our SAA's President's emphasis on the episode - that "Jacky's a talent SAA need to capture". The whole interview seemed to focus on Jacky's performance, with only a line from Mr Tang's interview that he maintained what Jacky did was wrong. As the President of SAA, the least he should do is to give a stronger assertion on Jacky's wrong-doing before he commented about Jacky's exceptional ability. Otherwise, future potential athletes who are unable to achieve any breakthrough may resort to negative tactics to seek attention. (Disclaimer: it might be The New Paper who structured the report by emphasising on Jacky's ability and through no fault of Mr Tang. :) For that, then I should blogged about being be appalled by The New Paper's reporting. :p )
Now that it is a week after the news, I hope we can all focus on running, with the commencement of the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore's registration and the conduct of the Sundown Ultramarathon just 1 day away (what a coincidence :p ). I wished Jacky the best in his pursuance in athletics.