The ping pong game: Who’s the bad egg then?
PADDLER Feng Tianwei has spoken up. She didn’t give a press conference after all. She issued a statement to the media written in Chinese. She also gave one interview, to The Straits Times, which was one news media which did not speculate on why she was given the axe.
“Some reports have made assassinations on my character and impacted my reputation negatively. I am shocked by these allegations. Throughout my time at the STTA, I have never committed fraud or done anything illegal. I have consulted lawyers on these reports,” her statement said.
Well, well. Who’s the bad egg then? Table tennis is sure giving out a powerful pong.
TODAY and The New Paper had reported sources giving reasons for her dismissal. These included misconduct and ill-discipline. Among other things, they said she didn’t want to share her prize money and that she had made false claims regarding the now infamous 200 eggs she had for breakfast over nine days. You can read our report here.
In the ST interview, Feng said: “I never made any claim for more than what I’m entitled to, nor cheated the association of money, or did anything unlawful.”
The STTA has been coy about her sacking, saying only that the 30-year old didn’t fit into its rejuvenation plans. But news reports have painted her as an athlete who was difficult to manage and who had had several run-ins with management. On Thursday night, its deputy president David Sim shed more light on reasons for her sacking on his Facebook page, describing her as a national disgrace and a “bad egg”.
The STTA has distanced itself from Mr Sim’s comments, which he has since deleted. They were his “personal” views, it said yesterday. But it also took the opportunity yesterday to tackle one point which could be a legal minefield if left to stand: allegations that she had made false claims.
It said: “Regarding the recent media reports, Feng Tianwei was cautioned about the proper claiming procedure, but she did not falsify nor claim more than what she was permitted.”
Now, here’s the interesting part: TODAY is standing by its sources. In its news report on the STTA statement, it said it had seen documents detailing Feng’s dubious claims.
What a twist in the tale!
Feng didn’t say why she thought she was sacked in the interview, nor did she refer to STTA’s rejuvenation’s plans.
ST had this strange paragraph in its story:
It is understood that things with former women’s team head coach Jing Junhong reached a nadir at the Polish Open in November last year, following which Jing was redeployed and replaced by Liu Jiayi. Liu was later succeeded by Chen Zhibin.
Feng said: “I never thought that things couldn’t be salvaged. That would mean I wanted to cut off all ties with the STTA.”
This would be gibberish to someone who hasn’t been following news about the sport. So here’s a short background note: Feng, together with fellow paddler Yu Mengyu, had asked STTA for a change in the women’s team coach to help them improve their games. This follows an open dispute between Jing and Yu at the international competition earlier in October which resulted in a reprimand for each. Jing was replaced by Liu Jiayi.
So what’s that got to do with the price of eggs???
It looks like the STTA now sees some wisdom in going public. STTA president Ellen Lee was on ChannelNewsAsia last night saying that deliberations to drop Feng started more than two years ago. If so, it was really good at keeping things under wraps because Feng declared in the ST interview that she was “really taken aback because it wasn’t something I had considered before.”
Contrary to reports that her sacking was the culmination of a series of run-ins with management, Ms Lee stuck to STTA’s script about rejuvenation plans.
“If we only concentrated on just continuing to develop and assist her in her games, then we are not being fair to our youth and to our younger players in Singapore who are trying very hard as well to be able to go into the place that she has occupied,” said Ms Lee, who took over the helm from MP Lee Bee Wah in 2014.
“We have to promote the sport, we have to make sure we groom enough players to take over any vacancies that come about.”
She did not want to be drawn into confirming or denying news reports giving reasons for her sacking.
“It’s hard for me to comment on people’s speculations,” she said. “STTA has never made official statements to that extent, and I guess if there is an angle that people want to create that really makes her look bad, STTA cannot be held responsible for that.”
That’s pretty rich. What can STTA be held responsible for then?
You can read our English translation of Feng Tianwei’s letter to the media here.
Featured image from TMG file.
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