Singapore backs off qualifying standards, but ridiculous AMA meet rules alive?

The "About Us" page of Singapore Masters Athletics features this photo of youngsters. Maybe grandkids of members?

Monday update: WMA President Margit Jugmann wrote me this morning: “The AMA Secretary and member of WMA Council Sivapragasam Sivisambo informed me today that AMA council has already taken care of the issue. It seems that there were some misunderstandings. SMA confirmed that a qualifying standard was set to select athletes for SMA to give subsidy for them. SMA is giving subsidy for the selected athletes. It is confirmed that those who don’t qualify or those who do not want to follow this procedure are NOT stopped from participating — they can all participate and pay on their own, which means all master athletes from Singapore are encouraged to participate as in the WMA & AMA Constitution. The above means that SMA is following the WMA Constitution and promoting Masters athletics in Singapore. WMA is looking forward to see a big contingent from Singapore in Kuching and even in Toronto.”

Well, isn’t that nice! But many questions remain, including: Why didn’t SMA make this clear from the outset? Why doesn’t it use its website to lay out the standards for subsidy (as USATF did for Torun worlds)? Does SMA still encourage member athletes to leave spouses at home?

Original post:

A few days ago, Roald Bradstock poked a hornet’s nest by asking his Facebook followers whether masters track is a “sport” or “activity.” He wrote: “If there are NO ENTRY standards to competing in the USA, European or World Masters Championships then isn’t Masters Athletics just an activity like a 5k fun run?”

I replied: “C’mon, Roald. Get a grip.”

Roald, of course, has a great grip on the javelin, setting records every few years. But he didn’t realize that the recurring issue of qualifying standards has a less-amusing side. Just ask the nearly 1,300 Singaporeans who signed a petition to protest its NGB saying it won’t send athletes to December’s Asian Masters Athletics championships if they don’t meet certain standards.

Of course, this violates a bedrock principle of masters track (and current WMA rules: “Entries shall not be subject to prior achievement of qualifying standards.”).

From the dawn of our sport, it’s been clear that in WAVA or WMA meets the only requirements for entry are proof of age and paying your fees. (Sanctioned athletes or affiliates are the rare exception — dopers and Russians, for example.)

As first reported by, we learn of a petition by John Chua that begins: “It is with great alarm and regret that in the past year, the latest management committee of the [Singapore Masters Athletics] has instituted ‘rules’ for participation in Masters’ events where no such rules have existed for the past 40 years, actually creating obstacles against participation. Despite many appeals, SMA is intent on enforcing these ‘rules’ with the rationale that since they are the sole representative body to WMA, they have the power and authority to determine who can participate in any WMA-sanctioned event, without interference from WMA and Asian Masters Athletics (AMA), while bringing up various questionable rationales to justify their decisions.”

SMA is requiring members to fly together with the team and undertake “compulsory” training with SMA-designated coaches and training locations to be allowed to take part in the AMA meet, even though athletes had already qualified.

But wait! There’s more! SMA is “discouraging spouses from accompanying athletes” to the AMA meet in Malaysia and “discouraging exploration and enjoyment in the host cities.”

Whoah there. Now you’re talking moolah.

Of course, WMA can shut this down in a millisecond with a well-worded letter. I wrote to WMA Prez Margit Jungmann in Germany, and she replied Saturday that she’s “short [of] information as the case is still going on” and “AMA council is aware of the problem and in charge to take care of the problem for the moment.”

She added: “Members of WMA have to follow WMA constitution and must comply to by-laws and rules of competitions. That means: All Masters Athletes registered with a member shall be eligible to compete in Regional championships and WMA Championships. They shall not be subject to prior achievement of qualifying standards.”

Singapore geezertrackos are trying a work-around — getting Singapore Athletics to take over as the masters track affiliate in WMA. This may take a while — involving a vote of the WMA General Assembly next year in Toronto.

How does SMA defend its moves?

SMA Deputy President Samuel Veera Singaram told a newspaper: “SMA has been strictly told by our adviser to refute all allegations. We will reply accordingly to the parties in the next few days and hold a press conference to address this matter.”

That was Aug. 13. I haven’t seen coverage of a press conference.

The paper also quoted an SMA official as saying: “Any good governance will have a certain percentage of opposition. We are trying to bring the Masters to the next level. We are treating competitions as competitions and not as a holiday. We are representing Singapore and you need to have a certain standard if you are going to represent the country overseas. These people who oppose the direction that SMA is taking are not seeing the efforts made by SMA to be more professional.”

Can SMA spell clueless?

I appreciate the sentiment of making masters more “professional.” But how can they justify telling athletes to leave spouses at home and not being tourists? That’s just nuts.

Update: Late Saturday (Pacific time), I got a response from SMA General Secretary Kannan Arumugam. He wrote: “Singapore Masters Athletics president informed me that we (SMA) are only answerable to WMA and AMA [on] any clarification or question regarding Singapore Masters Athletes.”

But a Singapore athlete told me: “We are awaiting SMA to officially announce their final decision by Kannan after attending the last weekend AMA council meeting in Thailand. On the other hand, SA is already following up on the governance issue with SMA too. Will update a clear picture once we have more information.”

In the meantime, be thankful you’re not a masters trackster in Singapore, where the masters Constitution says: “The minimum age shall be 40 for male members and 35 for female members” and the “Team” section of its website says:

“There are many variations of passages of Lorem Ipsum available, but the majority have suffered alteration in some form, by injected humour, or randomised words which don’t look even slightly believable. If you are going to use a passage of Lorem Ipsum, you need to be sure there isn’t anything embarrassing hidden in the middle of text. All the Lorem Ipsum generators on the Internet tend to repeat predefined chunks as necessary, making this the first true generator on the Internet. It uses a dictionary of over 200 Latin words, combined with a handful of model sentence structures, to generate Lorem Ipsum which looks reasonable. The generated Lorem Ipsum is therefore always free from repetition, injected humour, or non-characteristic words etc.”

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About the Author

Ken Stone
Ken has followed track as an athlete, writer and webmaster since the late 1960s, and saw most sessions of track and field at the 1984 Los Angeles and 1996 Atlanta Olympics. He also attended the 1988, 1992, 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012 Trials. He worked for 10 newspapers and now reports for Times of San Diego. Write him at or Story tips always welcome!

14 Comments on "Singapore backs off qualifying standards, but ridiculous AMA meet rules alive?"

  1. There previously have been qualifying marks for competing in the German Senioren championships, indoor and out. Has that changed? It limited the competitors but was great competition.

  2. Milan Jamrich | August 19, 2019 at 8:56 am | Reply

    We have hard time to get enough competitors even without standards. So lets keep the Master Athletics tourists. Having said that, I wished many times in the past that we would have qualifying standards…

  3. Milan Jamrich | August 19, 2019 at 8:59 am | Reply

    BTW. is SMA subsidizing their athletes?

  4. I’d be curious to know, what their qualifying standards are. Let’s say, Men’s and Women’s 100 meters; 95-100. Or is that age-group exempt.

  5. I’m a Singapore Masters Athlete who has met qualification criteria for 3 events.

    From the outset, there has never been subsidy mentioned but rather a goal to “raise standards” and remove tourists to the event. It’s interesting a subsidy cropped up after this escalation. I would now look forward to how much subsidy they are going to come up with to save face.

  6. There was absolutely no misunderstanding! The athletes were told quite plainly in several meetings and training sessions organised by SMA and also in written communications that if they did not meet the event qualification standards and did not meet the other requirements (i.e. attend 75% centralized training) they would not be allowed to go.
    The details of the subsidy was never shared with the masters community. There is no transparency or integrity when it concerns SMA.

  7. Concerned Masters Athlete from Singapore | August 20, 2019 at 2:36 am | Reply

    The so-called “misunderstanding” is actually a concession that SMA is giving under pressure from adverse press, only addressing the primary “rule” that is at odds with the WMA constitution.

    In their previous written correspondence with Masters athletes in Singapore, they made their position clear, the issues of which were outlined in the petition. Up to the point of your Monday update post, they have made concessions under pressure after the petition, but have yet to reverse their positions in writing to Masters athletes in Singapore. Given their record of shifting their position from day to day, it is not unreasonable to desire a documentation of their latest position.

    Historically, SMA is actually an athletics club who around 2002, were appointed WMA country representative by the Singapore Athletics Association (SAA), the governing body for athletics in Singapore, because they were the only club expressing an interest in the role at the time. The management committee of SMA is voted in by club members with voting rights, which numbered 72 as of 2017. Since the 2000s, many other clubs with Masters athletes have arisen, but they have no say in SMA elections. In the past year, the unilateral setting of rules by the latest SMA management committee to exert control over other fellow athletics clubs with impunity, and trying to assume the role of a national governing body, highlights the weakness in the existing mode of governance of Masters athletics in Singapore.

    The petition to SAA was to help change this form of governance to one akin to that of many other countries such as UK and Australia where a federation or association of athletics clubs oversees the interest of ALL masters athletes in Singapore, and not one club seeking to consolidate power.

    It is our fear that if SMA manages to appease WMA, the status quo would continue, and we await the next arbitrary rule that this club comes up with, since their licence to do so would have been rubber-stamped by the world authority.

  8. Weia Reinboud | August 20, 2019 at 1:14 pm | Reply

    Nice comment Milan 😉

  9. Thanks, Weia. Was always a front row dead center seat observer of your ability to; Spring, Sprang, Sprung. ( High Jump, Long Jump, Triple Jump )

  10. Hi Weia, you have to be more specific 🙂

  11. Sorry, Milan I apologize: My mistake. I think Weia was referring to your comments. You both are great high jumpers in the Masters program. Continue well into the ages. It’s your concerns is what makes the program great.

  12. Weia Reinboud | August 21, 2019 at 3:26 pm | Reply

    I meant Jamrich but like Tiff’s comments too 😉 I share Milan J.’s mixed feelings, so nice to have many participants even in one age group, but once I had to wait for 70 minutes before I could do my first jump, and then you think, well, entry limits…

  13. Nationals and Worlds are just big all comer meets for those that have the money and(or) time to go. How about you have some minimal standards for nationals, then you actually qualify for worlds by being in the top 3, 5, 8 or whatever number you want, at nationals. Then they would actually be “championship” meets. Right now some events are kind of a joke.

  14. I used to think, Masters Track and Field were made up of people who loved and imitated the sport, like my kids played, house. To imitate their parents. Until I met people like; Kristal Donnelly, David Pain, Al Sheehan. Their goals were to finalize the books and establish the human records in Track and Field. I realized that goal came in two parts. Can you make it to 70, 80, 90 etc. And once you get there, can you perform. They say; The true World Record is the oldest to run the fastest, jump the farthest, throw the furthest. The Nationals and Worlds is an open contest to bring on this challenge, if you qualify, humanly.

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