Taekwondo athlete almost missed the 2019 SEA Games before achieving S'pore's best result in the event since the 90's

The Singapore Taekwondo Federation had previously called his athletic achievements "paltry".

Andrew Koay | December 10, 2019, 03:22 PM

Singaporean Taekwondo athlete Ng Ming Wei has taken home the silver medal in the SEA Games men's under 58kg final yesterday (Dec. 9).

The accomplishment ranks as Singapore's best result in the men's kyorugi (sparring) discipline at the SEA games since 1999.

It also marks a significant upturn in Ng's year, after his achievements in the sport were publicly labelled as "paltry" by the Singapore Taekwondo Federation (STF).

Missing the 2019 SEA Games

In fact, earlier this year in March, Ng told Mothership that he was likely to give the 2019 SEA Games a miss.

He had intended to take a gap year from his studies at NTU to adequately prepare for the games.

However, a perceived lack of support from the STF meant that sidetracking his studies for a year would not be a viable option.

No gap year, I can’t take part in SEA Games, because I need to be responsible. If I don’t train, and I just go for the sake of competing, I don’t think it reflects very well on me also.” 

Troubles with the STF

There was also the not insignificant matter of being locked in a legal tussle with the sport's governing body in Singapore.

After Ng's interview with Mothership was published, he was sent a legal letter by the STF accusing him of defamation.

Yet, in May, the STF was stood down by World Taekwondo, the sport's global governing body over allegations that STF officials had breached ethical codes.

Thereafter, the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) took over preparations for the SEA Games.

Ng's own conflict with the STF was resolved at the end of September when they withdrew various comments they made about the local athlete.

"Notwithstanding the previous statement that my results were paltry, the STF now takes the position that I am a commendable athlete whose athletic performance should not be downplayed," wrote Ng in a Facebook post that brought the saga to a close.

Plans back on track

Together with the SNOC, the STF offered Ng a funding package that would allow him to take a leave of absence from NTU.

The 2019 SEA Games was now very much back on Ng's radar and he began preparations for it by flying to Norway to train with the Norweigan National Team, where he also fought on the European tournament circuit.

"I experienced a few losses but always garnered a great deal of experience," said Ng.

He eventually managed to achieve a silver medal at the 2019 Riga Open in Latvia.

"Enroute to the final, I managed to defeat the world number 9 in my weight category. This served as validation for me that my training was proceeding well."

2019 SEA Games

Come Dec. 9, 2019, Ng's convictions were further validated when he dispatched his first opponent — Htet Zaw Lin from Myanmar — with relative ease.

In the next round, Raihan Muhammad from Indonesia would prove a sterner test.

"This was not an easy fight for me. My opponent was a strong contender. Further, during the second fight, my muscles had started to cramp from stress and fatigue."

Fighting through the pain, Ng managed to win the bout with a comfortable lead.

Describing his experience at this year's games as "much better" than his previous participations in 2015 and 2017, Ng lauded the team that had been hastily assembled in the aftermath of the STF's suspension.

"I had much better coaching from Mr Henry Tan Kheng Juan and our schedule was managed well by our team manager Dr Ho Mun Wai. Both of them really looked after us and placed our interests and needs first."

The support allowed Ng to compete free of worries with sufficient time set aside for his personal preparation.

Taking heart in disappointment

In the final, Ng found himself up against Thailand's highly ranked Sawekwiharee Ramnarong — a gold medalist at the 2013 and 2017 SEA Games.

Intimidatingly, Ramnarong had also clinched bronze at the 2015 and 2017 World Championships.

When Ng took an early lead in the bout, a fairytale ending to a turbulent year seemed possible.

Yet, it was not to be as he eventually lost on points, 14-27.

"While I was disappointed to have lost the final, I took heart in the fact that I had obtained a better result than my last showing at the SEA games."

Looking to the 2020 Olympics

The result was also Singapore's best showing in the men's kyorugi (sparring) discipline at the SEA games since 1999.

"This has been a long and hard journey. But at the end of the day, I’m just happy that I was able to bring back a medal for Singapore. I hope this inspires more people to take up Taekwondo and even better results for us in the future."

However, for Ng the journey hasn't ended yet. Having performed admirably at the SEA Games, he now has both eyes firmly focused on the 2020 Olympic Qualifiers.

He tells Mothership that he will need to win either gold or silver at that tournament to fulfil his ultimate ambition of competing at the pinnacle of sports.

Top image from Ng Ming Wei's Instagram page