Why Importing Athletes Probably Can’t Hurt

Feng Tian Wei, Singapore's first individual Olympic medalist in over 40 years

On Wednesday, 1 Aug 2012, Feng Tian Wei became the first Olympic medalist for Singapore in over 50 years. I am a Singaporean, and for this, I am proud. Some will go on about her roots being from China, making her not actually Singaporean. Well, I say, so what? If they can do better than what our current stock of players, then we must put them up as our best foot forward. A win, in many cases, spurs support and that in turn spurs more wins. If this is what it takes for us to get started, then I say why not?

With hope, these ‘imports’, as they are often referred to, will help build up a team that is natively Singaporean. That will not happen soon though. Look around the London 2012. Athletes from geographical locations other than the one they are representing are strewn all over. Some countries have niches in which they traditionally perform very well in. They get governmental support to train atheletes in that area. Many athletes are recruited, and the best are cherry-picked to represent their home country. What then happens to those who aren’t? They aren’t the best there, but surely they could beat the best in many other countries. It makes sense for them to look overseas if they are to continue their quest for a place in the Olympics. And so they willingly become ‘exports’.

I feel this does two things. One, it evens out the sporting landscape a little. Two, it drives improvement in the sport. With talent spread the world over, the best must get better as more athletes get training from some of the best on the globe. Sports benefit greatly in that way, and audiences will inevitably get a better show. The proverbial win-win.

We sometimes like to say ‘haters gonna hate’. I guess that is true. Perhaps some foriegners in Singapore deserve a stern chiding, but the flying in of athletes is something I can live with; and I don’t say this just because we’ve won something. Or do I?


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