02 June 17 The Straits Times by ALVIN CHIA
Familiar faces who bring with them youthful enthusiasm will help to lead the Singapore contingent at the upcoming SEA Games.
Former national swimmer Mark Chay, 35, and ex-shooter Lee Wung Yew, 51, were yesterday named the Republic's deputy chefs de mission for the Aug 19-30 Games.
The Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) announced that the pair will assist Team Singapore's chef de mission Milan Kwee, 70, in Kuala Lumpur.
The latest appointments come as the SNOC continues to hand leadership roles to younger faces - mostly retired athletes - at major Games.
Traditionally, the role of chef de mission has been rotated among the SNOC's four vice-presidents - Tan Eng Liang, 79, Low Teo Ping, 72, Annabel Pennefather, 68, and Jessie Phua, 62.
The first time Singapore had two chefs de mission was in 2015, when the Republic hosted the SEA Games. The two men were former national fencer Nicholas Fang, who was 39 then, and Tan.
The role is not entirely alien to Chay or Lee. Chay was Singapore's chef de mission for the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, while Lee led the delegation at the inaugural Asian Youth Games (AYG) which Singapore hosted in 2009.
They are both excellent role models and have approachable personalities. More importantly, they have experienced first hand what athletes go through at major Games.
MILAN KWEE, Singapore's chef de mission to the KL SEA Games, on Chay and Lee.
However, it will be the first time both are helping to guide a contingent at a senior Games.
Kwee said: "The combination of both Wung Yew and Mark's experience as athletes, coaches and chefs de mission will bring tremendous value to Team Singapore.
"They are both excellent role models and have approachable personalities.
"More importantly, they have experienced first hand what athletes go through at major Games. This is experience that will come in handy when helping athletes."
The KL Games will have a total of 405 events across 38 sports.
It is understood that the sheer size of the contingent expected to be in KL - the SNOC's provisional list stands at 840 athletes although this will be culled further - and the disparate locations for the various events in the Malaysian capital, warranted the increase in numbers. At the 2015 Games, Singapore fielded 747 athletes.
Lee, a physical education teacher at Innova Junior College, competed in three Olympics (1996, 2004, 2008) in trap shooting.
In a career spanning three decades, he appeared in six Asian Games and 11 SEA Games, where he won 16 gold medals.
The two-time Sportsman of the Year, who retired from the sport in 2011, said: "We're overseeing a more accomplished and bigger contingent of athletes at the SEA Games as compared to the AYG. We're talking about athletes like Joseph Schooling. There's more at stake.
"Some of them are teenagers. I believe that my job as a teacher will help me to lead our younger athletes well."
Chay, a two-time Olympian who retired from competitive swimming in 2007, is now head coach of X Lab, a swimming academy.
He said: "We are former athletes who competed at the highest level. To some extent, we can relate to some of the athletes who will be competing at the SEA Games.
"It's an opportunity for younger people like us to be exposed to this side of sports administration."
Golfer Callista Chen, 18, a Singapore Sports School student who is set to make her SEA Games debut, said: "They are well-respected athletes. Even though I don't know them personally, they can relate to us easily.
"Having someone who has that much success and experience in sports leading us is an encouragement to a younger athlete like me."