Ex-swim stars surprised that Joscelin Yeo is not in Sport Hall of Fame
SportSG says it will make improvements to the nomination and selection process
Surprise, followed by a resounding yes. That was the common refrain from former swim stars in response to whether Joscelin Yeo should be inducted into Singapore's Sport Hall of Fame (HOF).
Yeo's omission from the HOF, which has inducted over 50 athletes, including Patricia Chan, Ang Peng Siong, Joseph Schooling and Fandi Ahmad, had sparked debate recently.
The issue was raised by former Singapore Swimming Association (SSA) vice-president Jose Raymond in an online article in January, and by veteran journalist Godfrey Robert in a Business Times column last month.
In response to media queries, Sport Singapore said last Saturday that it will review its nomination and selection process for the HOF.
Former swim queen and mother of four Yeo was a dominant force in the 1990s and beyond, winning an incredible 40 gold medals across seven SEA Games.
Her record haul eclipsed that of Singapore's first Golden Girl, Patricia Chan, who won a remarkable 39 golds from 1965 to 1973 at the SEAP Games, the precursor to the SEA Games.
Yeo's exploits saw her inducted into the Singapore Women's Hall of Fame in 2014, along with Chan, who was surprised at Yeo's omission from the Sport Hall of Fame.
"I'm a little shocked, I thought she was in the (Sport) Hall of Fame. Joscelin not being recognised poses a big question," Chan told The New Paper.
"Yes, she should be... there's no doubt that she has made a big contribution to Singapore sports... It is not just about being a sports icon...
"We are talking about a person giving their youth to a country and (doing it) as consistently as Jos did."
Yeo, 40, is Singapore's only four-time Olympian and received the coveted Sportswoman of the Year award thrice (1994, 1996 and 2000).
She also won bronzes at the Asian Games in 1994 and 2002.
Her former national teammate May Ooi, an Olympian herself, was bewildered. Said the 44-year-old: "I'm surprised she isn't already (in the Hall of Fame), I just assumed she was."
"I mean 40 golds qualifies anybody to be a super athlete, she was also offered the Rhodes Scholarship, which shows she isn't a dummy. She is also a former NMP (Nominated Member of Parliament), so what else does Joscelin need, (to) marry into royalty?" Ooi joked.
"I definitely support her induction into the Hall of Fame... Her achievements speak volumes and she serves as an inspiration to girls."
Swimming legend and two-time Olympian Ang also voiced his support for Yeo, who retired from competitive swimming after the 2006 Asian Games but continued to serve the sport as SSA vice-president (swimming).
"Joscelin was one of the very few female swimmers who have significantly contributed to Singapore's swimming history," said the 57-year-old who was inducted into the HOF in 1985, the year it was incepted.
"Dominant and untouchable... her legacy as a Golden Girl is well deserving and should rightfully be honoured in the Hall of Fame.
"Joscelin continues to serve the swimming community in her role as the national sports association's VP... She is making a difference to the sport and is an inspiration to the future female champions in the making."
When contacted, Yeo said: "You know, this never did cross my mind until I was asked about it.
"When I swam for Singapore, it was about giving my best to the country, my family and myself. I never did it for fame, or the Hall of Fame.
"If the powers that be feel that I am not deserving of this title or honour, then that's their call. It does not take away from my achievements over the 17 years I swam for the nation.
"It does not stop me from continuing to work to give back to the sport of swimming or the community and, in the process, having to work with those that make these decisions.
"For those who have called for my inclusion, I am humbled. Honestly."
Sport Singapore, the national sports agency, said it was "heartened to see... the lively discussions" and that it "will make improvements to the nomination and selection process".
In response to TNP's queries, a SportSG spokesman said: "Joscelin Yeo's contributions to Singapore swimming and service record are noteworthy. ..
"The HOF committee thoroughly evaluates nominated athletes on the merits of their past performance, character and contribution to sporting Singapore.
"Views from sporting and non-sporting fraternity are sought as input to committee deliberations. The committee then arrives at a consensus on the athletes' worthiness and timing for induction into the HOF.
"While all deserving athletes will be considered for the HOF inductions, the timing will vary.
"The committee has taken some feedback and will make improvements to the nomination and selection process, particularly with regard to widening the extent of stakeholder or public consultation."
The 12-man HOF committee for last year was headed by SportSG chairman Kon Yin Tong and included Singapore National Olympic Council secretary-general Chris Chan, SportSG chief executive Lim Teck Yin, former Olympian Ben Tan, TNP associate editor Leonard Thomas and former swimmer Mark Chay.
Sport Hall of Fame criteria
Sport Singapore highlighted that there are two pathways to gain entry into the Sport Hall of Fame.
The first is through success at major Games and contribution to sport.
Gold medallists at the Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and at the World Championship level, who fulfil eight years of service to the sport, are eligible.
Olympic medallists are exempt from this requirement.
The committee will also assess the suitability of candidates as all-rounded athletes and role models.
The second pathway is for athletes who have achieved sport icon status and have served the sporting fraternity over many years.
A sport icon would be a role model in character and values, an inspiration to Singaporeans and someone who captures the imagination of the nation, with SportSG citing sprinter C. Kunalan and footballer Fandi Ahmad as examples.