Volker Herrmann – An Unsung Hero of KL SEA Games 2017 Posted on September 18, 2017
When I was told that there were two athletes who won the gold medal in the high jump event, for Women Open, in SEA Games in KL, 2017, I became puzzled, although I was happy for Michelle Sng, our Singapore participant for high jump for women. Usually, the practice is that only one athlete will get gold, not two. The next athlete down the line is supposed to get silver medal, instead. Hence, Singapore’s Michelle Sng and Vietnam’s Duang Thi Viet Anh won gold medals, eventually. Knowing this, still, I was reflecting on what must have happened.
Today, I decided to meet Volker Herrmann, 33, a German by descent, and Technical Director of Singapore Athletics to discuss on my elite athletes overall plan and development. The road traffic was very heavy at Suntec area that I was late, in fact super late! As soon as I met him, I told him,” Sorry, I am 50min late. ” . To this he gave a pleasant smile and said, ” No problem!”. I told him that there was road blocks, around Raffles Boulevard, as the F1 race was just over, from yesterday. When I had a conversation with him, all the way, to my surprise, I felt that he was a calm person and he kept a cool composure. It was impressive to see him being patient and may be I could learn calmness through him.
Volker shared with me many things on athletics, and after some time, going through the conversation, the topic, went gradually to high jump in KL SEA Games 2017. It was impromptu and spontaneous and we did not expect to enter to this discussion. I asked him on why were there two gold medals and not one. Then, he told me the story which made me feel that he is certainly an inspiration to look up to. There was a sense of courage in his eyes when he talked and he also talked straight to my eyes, which made me feel that he is sincere.
It was interesting as Volker told that me about Michelle Sng and Vietnam’s Duang Thi Viet Anh predicament when they were jumping and cleared 1.83m. The judge felt that the competition was over and had to settle the two athletes as gold, and gold, it means that both were awarded gold medal. After some stoppage time, later, the high jump marking for the run up of high jump were taken out and the high jump stand were all cleared. (That means the two athletes had to stop the competition and were ready to go back and rest).
However, because of indecision or something, after sometime, the judge called them to compete again and had decided to let them compete in jumping until there was one champion only for the high jump event. Seeing this, Volker, without a second thought made his way to the high jump area and spoke to the high jump judge in a cool and calm manner and explained in detail that the stopping of the competition was not fair and that the first place was supposed to be shared between the two jumpers. The judge noticed his appeal and agreed to Volker’s concerns, but also explained to him that he had received an order to continue with the jump off. Volker insured that he is be able to use this information for the appeal he would potentially initiate after the jump off.
After jumping finally, it was decided that Vietnam’s Duang Thi Viet Anh was first and Michelle was second. That means that Michelle was to get second instead of first. Seeing this, Volker, immediately made his way to the high jump area and spoke to the high jump judge in a cool and calm manner and explained in detail that the stopping of the competition earlier on was not fair and that the gold medal was supposed to be Michelle’s as well.
As already contemplated, Volker convinced the Singaporean Team Managers to accompany him to the TIC, where he officially appealed again after the end of the jump off. After a while of emphatic discussions, the TIC finally agreed that Volker’s appeal hearing Volker out, the judge requested the former to appeal to the TAC, an official from Qatar, and subsequently this case was allowed to be escalated to the TD (Technical Delegate), the highest official organiser. Volker was told to make an appeal through writing through the SEA Games board of appeal, through SNOC. Hence, the case was brought up to SNOC official by the name of Mr Reng Kai, who was also the team manager for the Team Singapore Athletics.
Volker explained in detail and on the unfairness and he was firm that the competition should not have paused to a point that the warm up, mental and physical tuning were all affected. If the competition had no pause, Michelle may have won, and that opportunity was not given to Michelle. Knowing this gravity of the situation, Volker made gesture to earnestly appeal, and Mr Reng Kai, decided to finally appeal. Although Volker indicated that he was willing to fork out USD200 himself, the team manager decided with Volker and agreed by paying USD200 to the organisers on 14 August, 2017, itself, at 10 45pm.
All of a sudden, a surge of joy came the next day when SNOC and Volker, on knowing that Michelle had won the elusive gold medal, which she had been all along missing in SEA Games, and Volker felt that he had done his job as the Singapore official to boldly inform the organisers on fairness.
As for me, I fell that there are two things that we can learn from this situation. It showed that for the competition organisers had organised the race in a fair manner, which puts KL SEA Games on a pedestal of Fair Play for this gesture. It was noble of the KL SEA Games official. Usually, there may be a competition to see who is first and second. Also, with tact, tenacity, peserverance and the thought to sacrificing for Singapore, Volker had made Singapore proud. It was for Volker to appeal and we won the case for Singapore to win the gold that Michelle had been working hard for. If it was due to inaction, Michelle Sng would have got second. Lastly, it was also the work of Mr Ren Kai to listen to Volker’s story to appeal and make the decision, before it was the day was over, to act appropriately that made us to get the gold in women’s high jump. Hurray to Team Singapore!