Leonard Thomas: STTA chief Lee needs to instil discipline for Olympic assault
STTA chief must ensure Olympic goal is not derailed after major upheaval
They became world champions in 2010 after sending shockwaves around the world when they beat China in the team final in Moscow.
They collected two Olympic medals in London in 2012, after the women finished third in the team event and Feng Tianwei won a bronze in the singles.
It was the best of times for the Singapore women's table tennis team under Zhou Shusen, a 71-year-old coach who exuded world-class ability and authority.
Less than 10 months before the 2016 Olympic Games begin in Rio, it is anyone's guess if the team are heading for a dark period, after the Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA) announced major changes in coaching positions in the national set-up yesterday.
This is STTA president Ellen Lee's biggest test since she succeeded Lee Bee Wah in September 2014.
Zhou's successor, Jing Junhong, has been relieved of her duties as women's team head coach and replaced by Liu Jiayi, her deputy.
Men's head coach, Yang Chuanning, has been sacked, and the STTA is currently on the hunt for a replacement.
A little over a year since she took over as president of the country's most successful national sports association, Lee faces the biggest crisis in table tennis in years, and the STTA chief needs to rally the team, both men and women, and refocus all eyes and all minds on the Olympic goal.
Lee needs to revive spirits, return discipline and intensity within the camp, or Singapore table tennis will miss out on the chance of winning a third successive medal at the Olympics in Rio next year.
She needs to read the riot act to coaches and players and say a lack of professionalism cannot be tolerated, while also ensuring they remain encouraged to challenge the world's best.
It is a delicate balancing act and it may require the lawyer to be even more intimately involved with the players and coaches.
The coaching shake-up comes after the STTA formed a panel to investigate a dispute between Singapore's No. 2 women's player Yu Mengyu and Jing at the Polish Open two weeks ago.
While I applaud the speed of the review, the STTA has not sufficiently explained why Yu has been issued only an official warning, especially when she has not apologised for her role in the unseemly argument with Jing conducted in public at courtside.
I hope the STTA will learn a lesson from this saga and improve the lines of communication within the NSA because players must always be heard.
Both Feng, the world No. 7, and world No. 24 Yu, had informed the STTA they wished for a coaching change a week before the Polish Open in a bid to become better.
They didn't feel Jing was effective.
The men also felt Yang was not good enough.
Jing became national women's head coach after Zhou left in 2012, while Yang has been in his position for five years.
Both no longer lead the two teams, but if the STTA hierarchy had discovered earlier that the duo were not good enough to tutor the stable of world-class paddlers, Singapore's Olympic hopes in table tennis would be brighter today.
The new men's coach must be hired urgently and be top quality.
While the STTA believes he is up to the job, new women's coach Liu has only tasted success at the Commonwealth Championships and the Commonwealth Games as coach of England.
That is not where the big fish play and he needs to step up.
Since the 2008 Olympic Games, Singapore's table tennis women have been doing battle on the biggest stages, and winning.
Much has been invested and the players have delivered.
It will be a shame if the result of all the recent upheaval is a happy tale ending in despair.
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