People have been bashing TNP for “thrash talking” Quah Zheng Wen. While we think that the commentary was a tad harsh, we think that TNP might have a point.

 But that said, take a chill pill, guys, and cut Quah some slack. He is only 19. This is his first games. He will learn. He will grow. And he will become stronger, and better.)

So, unless you haven’t been surfing the net the past two days, you are probably aware that The New Paper’s (TNP) commentary on national swimmer Quah Zheng Wen has kicked up quite a bit of storm.

 Basically, TNP’s Thomas Leonard wrote a piece (Test of character: Quah Zheng Wen disappoints with more than just bad timing) on 9 Aug, Singapore’s birthday no less, criticising Quah for his seemingly poor attitude after his lackluster performance at the 100m backstroke heats in the Rio Olympic games. (You can read the article here.)

According to Leonard, Quah simply walked past the Singapore journalists stationed at the mixed zone, saying only “Hi guys” before disappearing. Leonard took issue with that.

Unsurprisingly, the general public quickly lambasted TNP for the commentary. Some even went on to attack Leonard personally, making snide remarks about his size – being a couch potato and armchair critic and all.

We think that the commentary was published at the wrong time. The games are still on-going; our athletics  are  still  competing and doing their best. We should be proud of their efforts, and cheer them all. Such an article back home does little to boost TeamSG’s morale. Leonard and TNP could have waited till the games are over to give a blow by blow account of the whole damn thing.

But does that mean that TNP didn’t have a valid point? We don’t think so. Don’t get us wrong! We are proud of Quah and his efforts. We know that he has been training hard, and we know that no one else is more disappointed than him.

But a part of us feel that Quah could have acted more professionally.

To put things into perspective, the mixed zone is the official contact point for athletes and their supporters back home through the media.

Those who argue that Quah is accountable to no one other than himself got it wrong. Quah  is not competing at the Rio games as a private individual – he is representing the country under our national flag.

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There is a degree of accountability and obligation that a professional athlete has to show to his country and corporate sponsors – we must remember that he is being paid and sponsored to do a job, and is not doing this purely out of altruism.

What’s more, Quah was granted deferment from National Service – a rare case that is only reserved for very special circumstances.

In addition, swimming is an individual sport, not a team event. You can’t blame someone else for your own performance. You have to answer for your own performance.

All big names know that speaking to the media at the mixed zone is part of the drill. You can’t suka suka speak to the media when you get individual glory, and shun them when you falter. 

That’s the true spirit of sportsmanship, and what’s part of what we celebrate at the games. The glory comes with the responsibility. Disappointment is part and parcel.

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By all means, cry and share your disappointment with us. I think that most Singaporeans won’t blame our athletes if they fail to get a medal despite doing their best. But a lack of professionalism, which is expected from athletes at the top level, is a different issue altogether.

(But that said, take a chill pill, guys, and cut Quah some slack. He is only 19. This is his first games. He will learn. He will grow. And he will become stronger, and better.)

Majulah Singapura! Let’s hope that TeamSG will continue to do well at the Games!