By Koh Yizhe

In the upcoming 2010 Youth Olympic Games, one of the 26 sports that youth athletes will compete in is the Pentathlon. It is an Olympic sport that combines the Swimming, Running, Shooting Fencing and Equestrian disciplines.

Red Sports catches up with Tham Chen Munn, vice-president of the newly-formed Singapore Modern Pentathlon Association (SIMPA) to find out more about them.

Red Sports: How did this association get started?
Chen Munn: SIMPA president Nicholas Fang was approached by Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Community Development, Youth and Sports and Transport, Teo Ser Luck, in the middle of 2008 to set up the national sports association for pentathlon in Singapore. Nicholas competed in pentathlon for three years when he was studying in the UK and is supported by an executive committee comprising triathletes and fencers and other individuals with varied backgrounds.

Tell us more about modern pentathlon.
Modern pentathlon was the brainchild of the founder of the modern Olympic Games, Baron Pierre de Coubertin. He wanted to create a sport that features the skills required by a military messenger to cross a battlefield to deliver a message. Pentathlon has been featured in every Olympic Games since the first in 1896. It rewards athletes who are balanced in physical and mental skills and are able to handle a range of challenges.

The standard distances for international pentathlon events are 200m for swimming and 3km cross-country running. Fencing is the epee event and athletes are required to fence everyone else in the competition for one point.

Shooting is with the 10m air pistol and the riding event is show-jumping on an unfamiliar horse. For the Youth Olympics, the horse-riding event will be omitted as is the case for youth events at the international level. Instead, the running and shooting will be combined into a new and exciting format that promises to be great fun for athletes and spectators alike.

What are the age limits? (different sports have different age groups)
As far as we understand, the YOG will accept athletes aged between 17 and 18 during the time of the competition in 2010.

How are you going to recruit people and who are you looking for?
We are focusing on young athletes who have strong swimming and running backgrounds and will then be helping them with the other skill elements. Our recruitment drive will start very soon and we will be holding selection trials during the school holidays this year.

How big is the association now and how big do you want it to be?
We are currently operating with a 10-man management committee team and will be seeking to recruit as many athletes as possible in the next few months, as well as hire a full-time staff to help us drive our activities and programmes.

After the budget announcement, how much do you expect to receive?
We have submitted a request for close to $500,000 for our first year of operations to the Singapore Sports Council. We are hoping to receive as much of this amount as possible as this would enable us to carry out our programmes and preparation for YOG 2010 and beyond.

Since it is so complex, why would youths want to join pentathlon? Do you think it is hard for them to train since there are so many aspects to work on?
Pentathlon is a great sport for young people as it trains and requires a wide range of skills, physical and mental. And it also requires athletes to learn from an early stage how to balance their time and focus across difference disciplines, something that is extremely important in the current busy world where more and more demands are being made on our time and energy.

Any pressure felt as the youngest association?
The pressure we are feeling now is to get our programmes and plans up and running as quickly as possible in order to prepare ourselves for the immediate challenges such as the YOG 2010 and the future.

What are your expectations for Singapore in this sport? What is the competition like?
We are aiming to prepare athletes who can finish in the top half of the field at YOG 2010. This would be a great result for us, considering the young nature of the sport in Singapore, and will be a solid foundation for us to build on for the years ahead. We will be up against top-notch competition from powerhouses such as the eastern Europeans and other Western nations.

Are there any athletes SIMPA is currently scouting?
We are currently looking for all young athletes in Singapore who are interested in being part of Olympic history by representing the country in an exciting and challenging sport which is rich in Olympic spirit and promises to be a fantastic spectacle for audiences and spectators all over the world.

Athletes that are interested are encourage to participate in the Anchorvale CC Biathlon as SIMPA will be talent scouting at that event.

Details are below:
22/02/2009, Sunday
8.00am to 11.00am

THE CHALLENGE: 300m swim and 3.5km run

Category A: 13 years old to 18 years old
Registration fee: $6.00 per participant
Champion – $150 1st Runner Up – $100 2nd Runner up – $50

Category B: 19 years old and above
Registration fee: $10.00 per participant
Champion – $300 1st Runner Up – $200 2nd Runner Up – $100

FUN SWIMMING – $5.00 per team
– Form a team of 2 family members (immediate)
– 13 years old and above
– Swim 400metre, win vouchers!
All participants enjoy free entry to Sengkang Sport Complex

Closing date: Sunday, 8 February 2009
Register @ Anchorvale CC
59 Anchorvale Road
More info, call 6489 4959

For more information about SIMPA, visit their website