Sports Minister Tai Hsia-ling on Saturday responded to media reports that quoted her as saying taekwondo competitor Yang Shu-chun was the worst performing Taiwanese athlete at the London Olympics.
In a news report the previous day, the United Daily News quoted Tai as saying Yang's performance was the "worst," while table tennis player Chuang Chih-yuan, who made it into the round of four in the men's singles, was the best athlete on the Taiwan Olympics team.
When taekwondo medal hopefuls Yang and Wei Chen-yang were eliminated in the Olympics competitions, the minister said the players had been given five-star treatment but their performance was way below the public's expectations.
The Sports Affairs Council had expected that Taiwan would win at least one silver and one bronze medal in the taekwondo competitions, the minister said. Taiwan came away with one bronze.
In response to the media reports, Tai said she was surprised by second seeded Yang's loss, but did not call her performance the worst. "I believe everyone was very surprised (by her loss)," Tai said.
The minister also reiterated that the athletes on Taiwan's national team are the country's "diamonds" and deserve the best treatment.
However, the earlier remarks reportedly made by Tsai have sparked controversy across Taiwan.
The following are excerpts from local media coverage of the issue.
Tai's Facebook page was flooded with comments expressing disappointment with her remarks about Taiwan's Olympic athletes. Charles "Blackie" Chen, a basketball player-turned TV personality, urged Taiwan's sports officials to listen to the needs of the country's athletes.
"It is sad enough that the athletes are medal-less after four years of hard work, now they also have to take these criticisms," Chen wrote.
Wang Wei-chieh, a local sports critic and coach, said Tai "should resign," while basketball player Lu Cheng-ju asked "isn't it better to give more encouragement and less criticism?"
Opposition Democratic Progressive Party Chairman Su Tseng-chang also said Saturday that more encouragement should be given to athletes who have not won medals but have given their best.
United Daily News:
Ruling Kuomintang Legislator Yang Ying-hsiung took issue with Tai's comments about the performance of the Taiwan Olympics team as "not satisfying but acceptable" and "barely passing."
He said Tai has served as sports minister for four years and cannot be absolved from blame. The Sports Affairs Council has "completely failed in its duties" this time, said the lawmaker.
He criticized the minister as not having the courage to speak openly about Taiwan's medal targets before the Olympics and not shouldering her share of responsibility after the Games.
The council should explain why "five-star treatment" has not resulted in "five-star performance," Yang said.
The lawmaker said that as a developed country, Taiwan should review its sports policy, as it has performed worse and won fewer medals than many developing or underdeveloped countries at the London Olympics.
"Taiwan is really regressing in terms of sports achievements," he said. (Aug. 12, 2012)
(By Christie Chen)