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Bronze medal should be cheered, not jeered

Publication Date : 03-08-2012


A medal at the Olympic Games should be enough of a reason to celebrate.

It should unite a nation, fill its citizens with pride as they watch the national flag being hoisted on sport's biggest stage.

In many ways, Singapore's Feng Tianwei's bronze medal at the London Olympics on Wednesday night did that.

Yet, in pockets around Singapore, Feng's feat was greeted with cyncism for one reason: that she is a foreign-born athlete.

As of 10pm yesterday, a post about her win on The Straits Times' Facebook page attracted 152 comments.

While the majority were positive notes offering their congratulations and support, a small minority chose to focus on the fact that she was born in China and came to Singapore only in 2007. The medal means little to them because she is an import, and not a "real" Singaporean, they say.

The jeering was louder on the HardwareZone forum and in comments posted on Yahoo! Singapore, incidentally on a story titled "Singapore applauds Feng's Olympic medal win".

The paddler was the subject of more flak yesterday when a video of her throwing her victory bouquet into a spectator stand packed mostly with Chinese appeared online. Some said this showed her loyalties to Singapore were questionable, although this seemed to be reading more into it than might be warranted.

Yet, just as loud were of those hitting back at the negativity.

One post on ST's Facebook page summed up the sentiments aptly.

It read: "To those who questions her nationality: she has a pink nric like you and me. she did more than the average Singaporeans by putting Singapore on the world map and makes Singapore proud. You? what have you done to make Singapore proud of you? Shame on you."

Grumbling about foreign-born athletes is not new. It first surfaced when the Singapore Sports Council introduced a foreign-talent scheme in 1999.

It returned in 2008, when Feng, Li Jiawei and Wang Yuegu won the women's team silver at the Beijing Games. Now, it is back.

But what is refreshing is that some Singaporeans seem to be saying enough is enough, and making the case that athletes who do the country proud should be honoured, regardless of where they were born.

At the Welcome coffeeshop along Yishun Ring Road on Wednesday night, about 100 Singaporeans of Malay, Chinese and Indian descent watched as Feng flew Singapore's flag.

Production operator Fazli Mohad travelled from his Woodlands home just to be part of the screening, which was organised by the Singapore Table Tennis Association. The 27-year-old left a happy man, saying: "Watching the win with my countrymen, I'll not forget this moment."

Naturalised athletes are hardly a Singapore invention. These days, they are commonplace. There are at least eight foreign-born athletes representing Britain at this Olympics. Even Olympic powerhouse the United States relies on foreign-born talent. Bernard Lagat won two Olympic medals for Kenya (2000, 2004) in the 1,500m. In London, he is going for a third, but with the letters USA on his vest.

You hardly hear the British and Americans slamming their own. It's time we did the same. Feng was sent to the Olympics as part of Team Singapore. She trains and sweats for Singapore, and when she wins, Singapore wins.


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