Man up, Zheng Wen

IAN DE COTTA

SWIMMER Quah Zheng Wen shunned Singapore’s print media in Rio de Janeiro not once but twice this week. After a poor performance in the men’s 100m backstroke heats on Monday and failing to get into the 200m fly semis yesterday.

The New Paper Associate Editor  Leonard Thomas voices his disappointment in Zheng Wen’s snub in two commentaries, Flourish or fail, Zheng Wen must face reality and Speak up, Zheng Wen.

The only comments the Singapore swimmer gave were a four-liner to Channel NewsAsia after his 200m fly semis: “It could have been better. I don’t know, man. I was just kind of tired. I have to talk to Sergio (Lopez) and break down my swims.”

Athletes flying the Singapore flag have the responsibility for giving an account of their performance to Singaporeans through the press. And not only when they are successful but when they also fail.

Or else don’t carry the flag.

This is sport. Success is never guaranteed but athletes’ supporters and backers have a right to know what went well or wrong in their performances. Because time and money have been invested to help them compete at the highest level.

And this is the reality. Despite Zheng Wen’s capabilities, expectations of him bagging a medal in Rio are not high. He is not there yet, in terms of training and preparations.

Tokyo in 2020 is a better bet, but even that can be written off, if he does not have the mental fortitude to face up to his failures and talk about them. It takes courage and honesty and Zheng Wen must prove he still has these in his next event, the 100m fly on Friday.

Or else he is wasting everybody’s time.

ADMIN: The combox is opened but before you post your comments, please note this:

Nobody has to agree with this commentary and everyone is welcome to post counterpoints because we are all enlightened from different points of views. I believe Singaporeans are capable of intelligent discussion. But if you are incapable of discussing issues rationally and intelligently, and all you want to do is attack, ad hominem, the writer or any other person, you have a lot to learn about being a person, and an adult one at that. You need to grow up. In such instances, your post, like all rubbish, will end up in the bin such as others that have gone there.

21 Comments on "Man up, Zheng Wen"

  1. Give the man a break please.

  2. “Athletes flying the Singapore flag have the responsibility for giving an account of their performance to Singaporeans through the press. And not only when they are successful but when they also fail.

    Or else don’t carry the flag.”

    Who died and made you God? Man up Zheng Wen? How about man up, irrelevant armchair critic, and quit criticising an athlete who has devoted so much of his sweat and time into his sport, from your ridiculously high pedestal? Geez seriously. Zheng Wen was not at all rude, and he greeted the media and gave at least some comments on his performance. Maybe he’s a man of few words? Or maybe he was so disappointed with his performance he didn’t really know what to say when put on the spot?

    Ridiculous.

  3. Try telling Ronaldo to man up after he lost a match. I think he will throw all your pens into the river.

    They are all humans after all. What do you expect?? The amount of hardwork they put in is not something that you can imagine or written based on your one article.

    Wake up and write something more positive or encouraging instead of such passive negative article.

  4. I’ve deleted abusive comments in this thread. It is ok to disagree with what I wrote and to comment against it. I’ll defend your right to disagree with what I have written. But I will not tolerate personal attacks. If you are inclined to do this, you don’t belong in civilised discussion. By all means disagree with my views but don’t go down to the level of uncivilised discourse. Singaporeans are capable of intelligent discussion.

  5. The only people who can tell him to man up are his teammates, coaches, family, or a fellow Olympian. You are but a commentator. In the tech media, there is a famous article:- https://techcrunch.com/2007/10/12/the-man-in-the-arena/

    “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Yossi Vardi.

    You want a song and dance? That’s what a PR person is for. These are athletes, not PR flakes. They don’t owe reporters a “story”. And if a reporter does not get one, they shouldn’t spin one up and start assuming character flaws, or a lack of mental fortitude. That’s disgusting.

    And lastly, please don’t use “Singaporeans needing an explanation” to justify these abhorrent attacks against his character, much less to say whether he is worthy to carry the flag. Maybe we do want an explanation, but we did not ask you to attack them. There are more respectable ways to get clicks.

    Being a sports reporter does not make you a sportsman. And even if you are a sportsman, as a capacity of a reporter covering them, you are not in the arena with them even if you are inches from them.

  6. And how very ironic it is for you to dismiss personal attacks, but make wild assumptions against Zheng Wen’s character. Unlike you, he can’t simply delete comments he does not like.

  7. Articles like these really just expose yourself as a non-athlete. Everyone competitive athlete no matter on what stage, school or world, knows how it is like. You don’t know what it is like and your article proves it because no athlete will show this serious lack of the spirit of sports in communicating with another athlete. No athlete will beat down another athlete over non-issues like these. It’s a group you very obviously do not belong to.

    This also proves years of sports reporting does not bring you closer to knowing how it is like. It’s amazing you think you speak for us.

    • Teck Kuan, you are missing the point. I don’t need to be an athlete to ask him a question and you are assuming I don’t now what an athlete goes through. Zheng Wen was not asked to speak to an athlete, but a journalist who is reporting on his performance. The report is read by Singaporeans and those who supported and paid for his journey to the Olympics. He owe them that much.

      He is not swimming for himself but for Singapore, this is the point.

      If all the world’s athletes, including other Singaporean athletes, are able to go through the mixed zone and give their country’s journalists their thoughts on their performance, what makes Zheng Wen special? Unless he thinks he is.

      The problem with Singaporeans is that we molly coddle our athletes who don’t perform … and remember they are there because taxpayers’ money are used to offset their training and pay for their trip there. Many Singaporeans are not aware of this.

  8. Just to add to that: when Schooling said he was using the 100m free to warm up for the main event, articles started to pop up calling him douchey. This is a strategic decision and is very common in sports meets to psyche and prep the athlete’s mind for an event with the greatest shot of success, especially when a lot is on the line.

    My goodness. Now that he has won, you guys dropped calling him a douche eh? I have lost all respect for journalists. Not all, but certainly a great number of you.

  9. Singaporeans are capable of intelligent debate and nobody has to agree with what I wrote. I’ve so far allowed posts that attempt to argue my points, including those that are almost an ad hominem attack.

    Everyone is welcome to post a counterpoint to the commentary because we are all enlightened from different points of views.

    But if all you want to do is attack the character of the writer or any other person, you don’t belong in an intelligent discussion because you have a lot to learn about being a person, and an adult one at that, and need to grow up. In such instances, your post, like all rubbish, will end up in the bin like those of some others that have gone there.

  10. Hello, why is there a double standard here? You have attacked ZW’s character based on him not giving a reporter an “explanation” right after a swim. Surely you can stand up to attacks yourself writing a borderline ad hominen article like that? ZW does not think he is special, it is you and the press who think you are, and can take it out on a 19 year old for snubbing you, afraid that your editors will think you’re not doing your jobs not getting quotes. It is you who think you are special by not seeing the blatant double standard here – you cannot tolerate personal attacks yet you have made them. Do you see this? If you see this, and don’t acknowledge this, it is you who think you are special.

    You have dragged Singaporeans into this to support your attacks by citing taxpayers and all that. Taxpayers have not made any noise as far as i can tell. It is the press who have taken it upon yourselves to attack him. The press thinks it is special and can bully a kid for “snubbing” you. He said hi, he did not spit at you or throw stuff at you. He needs space to assess his performance, and the guidelines clearly says he isnt obliged to speak to the press in the mixed zone. I am sure you know this.

    It is you who think you have a special position to take it out on him, but singaporeans do not and have not supported your and leonard’s attacks. if you write for your readers, take heed of that, unless you’re actually surprised singaporeans are standing behind ZW and not you and leonard.

    You think we molly coddle athletes who don’t perform? Do you have any idea that they beat themselves up far worse that you can imagine for not performing? you make it sound as if they purposely do not perform, and you think giving explanations to the press will make them perform better in the future?

    Don’t you see that giving explanations to the press have nothing to do with a sportman’s future performances? absolutely nothing to do with the press. can’t you see this? If you have them to perform better, be encouraging, not disparaging. and I cannot stress enough to you that explanations to the press do not make them perform better. they are completely separate things. Don’t conflate them.

    • Hi Weilun,

      In reply to your post:

      1. Could you point out where in my commentary, even Leonard Thomas’, we have attacked Zheng Wen’s character? We have called on ZW to give reporters his account for his performance, yes. This is hardly an attack on his character. Neither I nor Leonard doubt the intensive training ZW has put in to prepare for the Olympics and we have not written to say we doubted this.

      2. Taxpayers money: Zheng Wen is a spexScholarship athlete and as he was training for the Olympics, received $90,000 a year from the Government through Sport Singapore to help him train and focus on his preparations. This is part of the $40 million taxpayers’ money that the Government has allocated to 66 athletes until at least 2017. So he gets taxpayers’ money and there must be accountability — unless you are suggesting athletes can use taxpayers’ money they way they see fit.

      3. You seem to speak for all taxpayers that they have not made any noise on how he reacted to the press in Brazil. Scour the Internet and you will find many have expressed their dissatisfaction.

      4. Molly coddling athletes: I have been reporting on sports for a long time and I have seen a lot of this going on: Parents and minders excusing athletes for poor performance and at times even bad behaviour. The press have reported some cases and not others. You probably would not know about this and think all athletes are role models.

  11. 1. You and Leonard have accused ZW of lacking strength, mental fortitude, courage, and to “man up”. Your reasons for saying that is because he did not give an “explanation” to the press and nation in the mixed zone.

    2. The word “snubbed” have been used times in Leonard’s article. For you, you used “shunned” – fair enough. Now, if any of the press feels snubbed, that suggests indignation. Is it right for a snubbed reporter to call into question his mental strength? That is kind of like me casting doubt on your mental strength for deleting comments. Does not make sense? No. That is a leap of judgement. It isn’t a direct attack on the ethics of your character, but it subtly casts doubts on your constitution (taking into account that mental fortitude and strength are part of one’s character).

    Is it for the press to make this leap of judgement? I don’t think so. Has this to do with being snubbed? How much has this got to do with being snubbed, and how much is to do with wanting accountability for taxpayers?

    3. You made the further leap from casting doubt on the strength of his character as explained above, to casting doubting on his fitness to carry the Singapore flag. This is a huge leap. This is like me saying if you write a bad article and do not face up to it and explain yourself immediately, then you are unfit to work as a reporter again. If you think that’s a ridiculous notion, why have you made that leap for ZW?

    4. ZW, being under a scholarship has every incentive to do well but has the responsibility to explain his failures, however, your statement is loaded. Not doing well and not talking to the press in the mixed zone does not mean he is “using taxpayers’ money they way they see fit.” This almost suggests athletes are misusing taxpayers’ monies. This is yet another ridiculous leap you have made. That is like me saying if you did not get a good quote from ZW, or if you write a poor article, then you must be using the publication’s money — salary, air fare, accommodations and all — as you see fit with no accountability, and you therefore must be misusing shareholders’ monies. If you think this is ridiculous, why have you made this leap for ZW and other taxpayer-supported sportspeople? Performance, or the lack of, is not the same as negligence of responsibility or the misuse of monies as you seem to have suggested.

    5. I am not saying that poor excuses can be tolerated. There are legitimate reasons and there are bad excuses, but what is legitimate or not is not arbitrated by the press. Of course coaches and parents defend the athletes’ performance, would they not? They work together.

    The press’ role of getting accountability do not make them better-performing athletes, it only makes them better explainers. And herein is the problem — you get better explainers and more media-friendly athletes, and you get your quotes, and you think you have done your job; but you don’t get better performing athletes. You call that accountability? I cannot think of one case where giving a soundbite has led to better future performances. Unless you are suggesting that your role is not a constructive one, but merely to get an explanation and a media-friendly face, in which case, you would do better talking to their minders and coaches isn’t it? This veneer of accountability is not a strong one. An in-depth report submitted to the SNOC on his performance would be more constructive. Off-the-cuff remarks to the press — that is not accountability, that is PR, and you know it.

    6. Sportspeople should be accountable, but not to the press, but through the press. I have no issues with that. My issue is with the press making leaps of judgement because of a small incident — snubbing the press. Is that a big deal? How much of it is a want for accountability, and how much is due to the “snub”?

    7. I do not think all athletes are role models. They are just like normal people but put under tremendous pressure to perform. So your suggestion is false.

    8. Your last great leap is when you say he is “wasting everyone’s time” if he does not talk to the press after his next event. Who is everyone? The whole nation? The press who are present? Your time? Maybe you mean the press who were waiting for him to give them a statement. Again, according to the guidelines, he isn’t required to do so.

    If Phelps does not give you a statement, surely he isn’t wasting everyone’s time? It is part of your (press’) job to wait. Sometimes you get a statement, sometimes you don’t. You don’t criticise a mega-star for not giving you a statement, so why do this to ZW? Because he isn’t Phelps?

    Or did you mean the whole nation’s time? This surely cannot be.

    • Weilun,

      Thank you for the thoughtful response. I’ll address your points later in the day when I have more time on my hands.

    • Weilun,

      I have reread what Leonard wrote and neither he nor I have ‘accused’ ZW, as you claim, of lacking strength, mental fortitude and courage.

      What I did write, however, is ‘IF’ Zheng Wen does not have the mental fortitude, he will not make it at Japan in four years time. When you read this in context, ‘If’ is not an accusation but a query whether ZW has the mental fortitude to compete with the world’s best at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

      If you do an online search on mental strength and elite athletes, you will find that this is a critical component that makes the difference between winning at the Olympics — and any world championship — and a mediocre performance.

      Again, if you read what I wrote, I pointed out there were no expectations for ZW to win anything this year. His real target is the 2020 Olympics.

      Does ZW has what it takes for him to win an Olympics medal in four years time?

      No one, not me and I am sure not Leonard as well, doubt ZW’s abilities. He won four individual and three team gold medals at last year’s SEA Games, so he is already a winner. But can he win at the Asian and Olympic Games levels?

      Shying away from reporters after his swims, when other swimmers did not, and when other Singapore athletes have not, suggests his mental fortitude is suspect — not that it is weak, but SUSPECT.

      So my statement that ‘if’ he does not have the mental fortitude his chances at Tokyo can be written off — is more a question for ZW to answer, to dismiss any doubts about his mental strength to win at the highest level. Again, ‘if’ here is not an accusation and the casual reader will be able to read this in context.

      Weilun, you are putting words into what I have written. When I wrote “unless you are suggesting athletes can use taxpayers’ money they way they see fit”, I am asking you a question if this what you are suggesting. I am not making that statement.

      You see, what we wrote has been mischievously taken out of context by at least two socio-political sites with no history of sports reporting or journalists. They fuelled the misunderstandings and the subsequent diatribe in cyberspace, and many people took the bait. This misrepresentation of the facts has even been carried over here by those replying to my commentary.

      But let me continue with ZW.

      Reporters don’t need any quotes from ZW and we can write reports, nonetheless. But this leaves a lot to speculation and the chance was given to ZW to prevent it from happening.

      But why was it important for ZW to give Singaporeans an idea of what he went through in his races?

      First, as I have said before, his training was financed by the Government — in other words with people’s money that was contributed through income tax.

      Second, and more importantly, he was given a long-term National Service deferment to train and compete at the Olympics. Why is this important? For more than 10 years, the sports fraternity and journalists like Leonard and I have been fighting for long-term NS deferment for athletes who have the talent to compete with the best in the world.

      Joseph Schooling and ZW were the first to be given this break.

      So we were anxious that they prove the deferment they were given is worthwhile, and this is why the sports community as well as Singaporeans have a right to be kept informed on ZW’s progress. And we got Schooling’s. At the Olympics, it gives us an insight if ZW is on the right track because whether he succeeds or not will have a huge impact on future elite sportsmen.

      It is under this light that ZW has the responsibility to tell Singapore how his swims at the Olympics went. With what Singapore has given him in terms of money and NS deferment, he has a duty to tell the country whether or not it is wasting its time and money on him.

      And by the way, Weilun, I don’t delete posts critical of me or what I wrote, as you can see from your posts and others here. I have in the past been threatened and confronted in person with harm because of what I have written, so am not afraid of criticisms and stand by my views. What I have deleted are plain rudeness and stupidity.

  12. There is no real difference between saying his mental fortitude may be suspect, and accusing him of lacking mental fortitude. This is a distinction without a difference. You can go all subtle on this, but the meaning remains the same. If I say your innocence is suspect, this is as almost good as accusing you of not being innocent. And if I go on to say – if you are guilty – this statement is anchored in the context of my suspicion that you could be. “If” is certainly not an accusation, but since you have conceded that his “mental fortitude is suspect”, in this context, you are definitely anchoring onto this suspicion. But let’s not get mired in such semantics and be distracted by my main points.

    You have not responded to:–

    1. whether the role of the media of getting an “explanation” from him (right after a race) is constructive in making him perform better in the future, or will it only make him a better media face. If being a well-oiled media face shaves a second off his times, I am sure he would do it.

    2. Whether you concede that explanations from ZW does absolutely nothing to make him perform better in the future, and this accountability is actually better left to formal analyses submitted to our Sporting bodies, from which the press can report on, as compared to an off-the-cuff statement from ZW. How can real accountability be based on off-the-cuff remarks from a tired swimmer? This also addresses your point about taxpayers’ monies.

    3. Therefore, in this context, accountability is not the real reason for needing a statement from ZW. The reason is to make the news, so let’s not conflate the two …

    4. which leads me to – Is calling his mental fortitude into suspect due to the “snub” or want for accountability? This is still an open question.

    5. “Shying away from reporters after his swims, when other swimmers did not, and when other Singapore athletes have not, suggests his mental fortitude is suspect — not that it is weak, but SUSPECT.”

    By this measure, quieter and shier people have less mental fortitude. You have not established the link between shying away from reporters and having potentially less mental fortitude. There is no reasonable relationship between not being a media-friendly face and mental fortitude.

    6. Even if I grant that you are not accusing him of not having mental fortitude, but merely casting doubt (again, no real difference in this context), you suggested that he is not fit to carry the flag. If you were merely casting doubt (calling into suspect in your words), you have suggested a very harsh sentence based on suspicion alone, which makes no sense logically. Even if I grant you that he lacks mental fortitude, relatively speaking, what has that got to do with carrying the flag? You did not explain this leap.

    7. I was fully aware that you were posing the question to me if I was suggesting athletes can “use taxpayers’ money any way they see fit.” But why did you even pose this loaded question? Your question alone made a huge loaded logical leap. I only responded as though you made the statement because the very fact that you posed such a suggestion is very indicative of your thoughts.

    8. If athletes do not perform on taxpayers’ monies, are they are “wasting our time and money”? Putting it in perspective, if these are our best athletes, and they qualified for the Olympics, are they wasting our time and money by having them there? It isn’t as though we do not know ZW is unlikely to win a medal this time. Is it wasting money if he does not medal, or even make the final? By this standard, why even bother having heats and semi-finals? Every athlete who can’t win a medal should just not bother going on their countries’ dime right?

    • Weilun,

      My replies in sequence to the numbers of your comments:

      1. If it is not constructive, why did the IOC bother to have a mixed zone for interviews? The IOC would not have it if it is counterproductive and there must be this confidence that those who have made it to the Olympics can handle the pressure of the media. But they have also said it is not compulsory for athletes to conduct interviews there. It must be on the assumption that there is a small minority who can’t handle this pressure.

      2. I wrote ‘giving an account of their performance’ not accountability. Big difference. And it doesn’t address the point about taxpayers’ monies.

      Definition of account: an oral or written description of particular events or situations; narrative:

      Definition of accountability: the state of being liable, or answerable

      3. The account is to give Singaporeans an idea of his progress. There never was any conflation. You are just assuming this.

      4. Yes, the snub brought on the question of his mental fortitude after his swim results because other swimmers who did not perform well were able to face up to journalists, but not ZW. So he triggered the question, nobody else.

      5. Quieter and shier people do not necessarily have less mental fortitude. But in high performance sports, this can be a weakness, hence the question on ZW’s mental fortitude. I have been doing research on high performance sports for a long time. Why don’t you read up on some of this?

      6. If you have benefited from a public grant and given NS deferment, but know you don’t have the mental fortitude to go far, then be honest: If you can’t fly/carry the flag, give it to someone else.

      7. Because people often forget that to be given public funding is a privilege and many athletes, who do not have financial resources, are continuously fighting to get this. So if you are given public funding, make sure you are worthy. You are depriving someone else if you are not. And please, weilun, don’t even think you know my thoughts.

      8. Like I said, no one expected ZW to win any medals this time. But we need to know if he is progressing well. His insights into his swims would have given us an idea. It is a matter of courtesy to the people, especially taxpayers, who have backed him on his journey. What Singaporeans want is a person who fights and not only wins medals. And he could have told us that — not you or I.

      • 1. Constructive towards what? Not towards the athlete’s performance, but towards publicising the swimmer, the event, the sport and the Olympics. It is purely for public relations. Your assumption that the IOC made it not compulsory to talk to the media because it knows some athletes cannot handle the pressure? This is a preposterous suggestion. The more likely reason is that it makes no sense whatsoever to make it mandatory to talk to the media. Not in sports or any other sector. No one is compelled to speak to the media, ever.

        2. Okay, so now you are saying the media is not there to get accountability, but rather to get an account. So you are conceding that it is purely for publicity and making the news, because that is what an account is. And by definition, a 30-second account of what happened will not be in-depth, which again, supports my point that it is purely for a soundbite, not proper analysis. His progress can be communicated in a tired 30-second walkthrough?

        Taxpayers want better-performing athletes over off-the-cuff explanations. They won’t get this watching footage of a tired swimmer trying to explain himself.

        3. You say he triggered the questions about his mental fortitude by shying away from the media. This leap is still not answered. If he had done something like Lochte, cooking up a story about being robbed, then yes, make the leap about his character. Shying away from the media has nothing to do with mental fortitude. Comparing him with other swimmers who did not shy away still does not mean he has less mental fortitude. There is no link to be established.

        4. Saying he triggered it is preposterous. I am not even going to go into this. It’s like saying if you don’t say hi to me, it’s going to trigger my pen to start writing stuff about you. It is almost a threat towards him, which is sad.

        5. I am an athlete so I may know some things about performance and mental fortitude. I have no issues on this point that mental fortitude is very key to performance. My point is that there is no link between shying away from the media and mental fortitude, and I stick by this. Asserting this is like reading tea leaves.

        6. “If you have benefited from a public grant and given NS deferment, but know you don’t have the mental fortitude to go far, then be honest: If you can’t fly/carry the flag, give it to someone else.”

        Again, this is based off a link that has not been established. No link between shying away from the media and mental fortitude. Phelps had gone though depression and admitted to being suicidal even. Are you also suggesting he should not carry his flag? Or that he has questionable mental fortitude? My point, and I repeat it — there is no link between shying away from the media and mental fortitude.

        7. Apologies if I assumed I know your thoughts. But your suggestion was very loaded. I have addressed that nonetheless. Lack of performance is not the same as negligence.

        8. This I can agree with you on. If it is about courtesy, sure. Okay, fine. But maybe, we can show him some courtesy as well.

        To conclude, our main disagreement are that there is no link between shying away from the media and mental fortitude, and of the role of the media in the mixed zone. Anyway, good chat. Thanks for replying.

        • Weilun,

          Thank you for the civilised discussion. I respect your views and hope you do mine. As previously, I’ll try and reply to your points when I have time on my hands, if I am not going to repeat myself again.

        • Weilun,

          I believe I’ve answered all your questions in my previous posts and will close this discussion with you. Thanks for a great chat. Cheers!

  13. Weilun,

    You have one more post to make because I have answered all your questions and we are just repeating ourselves. After your next post, I’ll make a reply and close comments from you on this topic.

Comments are closed.