Wednesday 17 June 2015

SEA Games 2015: Singapore ends Games campaign with 84 golds

Thank you #OneTeamSG athletes!
As we get ready for the closing ceremony of SEA GAMES 2015, here's a video tribute to #OneTeamSG athletes and their extraordinary feats over the past 2 weeks of competition. We're so proud of each one of you. Thank you for inspiring us all!
Posted by Lawrence Wong on Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Golden harvest recognised as a haul of fame
Accolades for Team Singapore after only three sports fail to earn medals
By May Chen, The Straits Times, 17 Jun 2015

AFTER far exceeding all targets while shouldering the weight of expectations pinned on Team Singapore, it was no wonder that sports officials showered the team with superlatives as the 28th SEA Games concluded yesterday.

The 749-strong contingent received a glowing report card at a post-Games media briefing, with their performances variously described as "excellent", "fantastic" and "impressive".

By the time the Games' flame was extinguished last night, Singapore had amassed 84 golds, 73 silvers and 102 bronzes, surpassing its previous best haul of 50 golds from the 1993 Games - the last time the event was held on home soil.

It meant that the hosts were ranked second in the overall medal standings behind regional kingpins Thailand, a feat that has not been achieved since the 1975 Bangkok Seap Games.

SEA Games 2015 Closing Ceremony

Chef de mission Tan Eng Liang, a veteran official who has led national athletes to 12 major Games, revealed that he had set an internal target of 64 golds before the biennial event kicked off officially on June 5. Matching the showing from 1993 was the minimum benchmark expected of the athletes, he said.

"Fifty was a very safe prediction," he explained. "The moment we hit my internal target, we knew that we were on the road to (even more). We are extremely pleased that we were able to achieve that."

Added Nicholas Fang, who was the SEA Games co-chef de mission: "It's not an overstatement. To be able to be among the top three nations speaks a lot about the performance of the athletes and the preparations that have gone in."

The success was attributed to a number of factors, among them the fact that being hosts meant organisers could, to a large extent, design the sports and events contested to maximise Singapore's advantage.

Netball, for instance, returned to the roster after a 14-year absence. Floorball made its SEA Games debut. Events such as the jumbo doubles in squash were also introduced. Singapore won golds in all these events.

Extra funding from SportSingapore and the Singapore National Olympic Council to the tune of more than $4 millionalso played its part in the overall achievement.

Medals were mined from 33 out of the 36 sports - only football, petanque and tennis finished empty-handed.

While he is personally disappointed at the performance of the Young Lions, Tan gave the team credit for trying their best - but also cautioned that sports which have reaped a less-than-ideal harvest must address what went wrong. He said: "I would expect them to do a detailed analysis and come up with some plan to bring them further if they want to improve."

Added Bob Gambardella, chief of the Singapore Sports Institute: "There's no looking back any more. We've had a great performance... and now the expectation throughout is that we're raising the bar. We have to be ready to meet those demands."

He also noted that campaign funding for specific events will be explored in the future to help athletes set their sights on bigger stages.

For now, officials are hopeful that the contingent's success at the SEA Games will serve as inspiration for athletes to strive for loftier goals, while also providing a launch pad for budding future athletes.

Said Tan: "The SEA Games is one step in a series of major events that leads to the Olympics. These successes will hopefully spur us on to do better at the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games.

"These Games have produced numerous heroes and heroines, and they're all inspiring and encouraging role models for younger athletes to follow."

Record medal haul is fitting tribute to SG50, says PM Lee
The Straits Times, 16 Jun 2015

Team Singapore's record-breaking performance at the 2015 SEA Games is a fitting tribute to the nation as it celebrates its Jubilee Year, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Tuesday night.

In a Facebook post, Mr Lee congratulated the team on achieving the Republic's best ever medal haul at the biennial Games.

He said: "Congrats to #OneTeamSG for their outstanding and record-breaking performance at the SEA Games 2015! They have delivered our best ever performance: 84 Gold, 73 Silver, and 102 Bronze medals. 259 medals in total - a fitting tribute to SG50. Well done everyone!"

Congrats to #OneTeamSG for their outstanding and record-breaking performance at the SEA GAMES 2015! They have delivered...
Posted by Lee Hsien Loong on Tuesday, June 16, 2015

He added that during the Games, Singaporeans came together to mourn the victims of the June 5 Sabah earthquake that claimed the lives of 10 people from Singapore.

"After the tragedy of the Sabah earthquake, Singaporeans came together to mourn the victims and support one another, and also to celebrate those who gave their all and never gave up," Mr Lee said.

He ended the Facebook post by thanking organisers, participants, volunteers and fans for making the SEA Games memorable.

Saying "It was fun for me to have been part of this too", Mr Lee posted a video featuring him and several performers and athletes that has been viewed more than 48,000 times.

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen hailed the biennial competition as the "best games ever" on his Facebook page, while thanking the Army for providing the workforce support to ensure a smooth running of the Games.

Singapore wins 26th consecutive men's water polo title
Polo boys go with the flow
Men's team keep up the good work of Team S'pore by winning last gold
By Isaac Neo, The Straits Times, 17 Jun 2015

ON JUNE 2, the first gold medal of these SEA Games went to Singapore when Lin Ye and Zhou Yihan bagged the table tennis women's doubles gold.

Yesterday, it all came full circle when the 402nd and last gold medal of this meet also went to Singapore, as the men's water polo team defeated Indonesia 15-10 in their final round-robin game, capping an extraordinary Games for Singapore with 84 golds.

It was also the team's 26th successive gold since 1965, adding on to a remarkable winning streak and reminding their regional rivals of their supremacy.

As the final whistle went, the capacity crowd at the OCBC Aquatic Centre went wild, with the team dunking coach Lee Sai Meng into the pool in celebration.

Despite the triumph, Lee was not satisfied with his team's performance, calling it "just average", as lapses of concentration allowed Indonesia to score.

He said: "It was only the beginning and towards the end that we started to play better.

"The team may have been a bit excited because their friends and family are here."

Although happy with the win, vice-captain Paul Tan agreed with his coach, saying: "We may have gotten a bit carried away and complacent when we went a few goals up but we showed our supremacy in the end."

Singapore's final gold at the Games proved to be no easy ride.

After the women's team had fallen to a shock 4-5 loss to Thailand on Monday in their deciding game, there were even higher expectations on the men to deliver and extend their golden legacy.

Singapore fired home an early double salvo, courtesy of Tan and Loh Zhi Zhi but, in the second quarter, Indonesia levelled the game briefly at 4-4 to sow seeds of doubt in the minds of the partisan crowd.

Indonesia put up a spirited fight, limiting Singapore to a two-goal lead right up until the end of the third quarter.

At the start of the fourth quarter, the home crowd, perhaps sensing that Singapore were just eight minutes away from the gold, broke out into cheers of "Go, Singapore, go!"

It spurred the team on, who broke away from the tiring Indonesians to score three goals and put some breathing space between them and their opponents.

With just a minute left, goalkeeper Lee Kai Yang made a superb diving save, and gestured for the crowd to rise in volume, which they did.

Team-work was the key to the win as Yip Yang, who scored four goals in yesterday's match to finish as the tournament's top scorer with 18, can attest to.

"It feels great, it's my second SEA Games; in the first, I didn't score a lot so this time I did better," said an overjoyed Yip.

"But it was really a team effort, everybody did their part. If I'm in charge of finishing a shot, I'll finish the shot."

Eugene Teo, who revealed that it would be his last game as captain, said: "I told the team to believe in themselves and in the hard work that we put in... I had full faith in my team."

As Singapore's men continue to assert their dominance in the pool, the question remains: When will their winning streak end?

Lee, who has now got 10 SEA Games gold medals, six as a player and four as a coach, said he hoped to prolong the streak as long as possible.

"Any country that works hard will have a chance to catch up so we can't become complacent, and have to work harder and think of our development," he said.

Teo quipped that he "could not predict the future" but issued a warning to his regional rivals.

The confident veteran said: "They have caught up to where we were in the last two years but we are pulling away from them."

Volleyball bronze hailed as 'awesome'
By Ho Si Rui, The Straits Times, 17 Jun 2015

SINGAPORE'S first SEA Games volleyball medal in 34 years is significant enough. But to achieve the milestone in front of those you know makes it extra special.

Quek Soo Teng, 28, who led the Republic's women to a bronze medal, said after yesterday's medal ceremony: "It was very emotional for us to see all our hard work paying off and achieve our aim of getting a medal.

"It was even more awesome when our family and friends were here to witness it together."

The team had been assured of the medal after beating Myanmar 3-2 to advance to the semi-finals last Saturday.

Unfortunately, they were unable to make the final after a 25-17, 25-12, 25-14 defeat by eventual silver medallists Vietnam.

In the men's final yesterday, defending champions Thailand clinched their country's 95th and last gold of the Games, defeating Vietnam 25-20, 25-19, 25-23.

It was the icing on the cake after the Thai women defeated Vietnam 3-0 in Monday's final.

Indonesia and Myanmar received bronze in the men's event. Indonesia claimed the other women's bronze.

Schooling, Zheng Wen top with $31,250 each
By Toh Ting Wei, The Straits Times, 17 Jun 2015

THEY struck gold at the SEA Games and the Singapore athletes will be richer out of it too.

Under the Multi-Million Dollar Award Programme (MAP), they stand to get $10,000 for each individual gold, $15,000 for each team event gold and $30,000 for each team sport gold.

With payouts for individual golds capped at three - and $5,000 for both second and third golds - the 23-gold Singapore swimmers will emerge as the top earners from the SEA Games.

Multi-gold medallists Joseph Schooling (six individual and three relay golds) and Quah Zheng Wen (four individual and three relay golds) are the biggest earners, each netting $31,250.

Tao Li (four individual golds and one relay) will net $23,750 while Quah Ting Wen (one individual and three relay golds) will bank in $21,250.

Rounding off the top five is paddler Gao Ning, whose individual gold and two team event golds will earn him $20,500.

Schooling, who turned 20 yesterday, also earned the most from the MAP awards for the 2013 Myanmar Games, raking in $27,500 after a five-gold haul.

Sponsored by the Tote Board and Singapore Pools, the MAP provides cash payouts to medal-winning athletes at the SEA Games, Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and the Olympics.

Athletes have to plough back 20 per cent of the cash prizes to their respective national sports associations for future training and development purposes.

Win or lose, every athlete has captured Singaporean hearts
By Jonathan Wong, The Straits Times, 17 Jun 2015

SOME said it was crazy. Many said it could not be done. Most just said it was plain foolish - there was just no way Singapore could hit the 80-gold mark at the SEA Games, even if it was on home soil.

We were doing it for the hype, said others about The Straits Times' prediction that the Republic could improve on its previous record haul, at the 1993 Games, by 30 golds.

But we were quietly confident.

We had a big team of reporters, among them 16 interns, who had spent time with many of the 749 athletes representing Singapore at this Games. Their hunger, determination and belief made us believe that 80 was possible.

Along the way and 19 days of competition, there were unexpected defeats, as there were victories.

Remarkably, the women's table tennis team, with Feng Tianwei at the helm, failed to win the women's singles gold. But sprinter Shanti Pereira's 200m triumph more than made up for it.

Yet, what was perhaps most satisfying about the 84-gold haul was the spread of sports which did well.

Singapore competed in all 36 sports available, winning golds in half - an all-time high. This was punctuated by memorable performances from swimmer Joseph Schooling, silat exponent Muhammad Nur Alfian Juma'en and windsurfer Audrey Yong.

The landmark 84-gold tally - more than Singapore's combined tally from the last two Games - could not have been reached without the record-breaking haul of 26 aquatics and 10 sailing titles while contributions from table tennis (six), shooting (five) and bowling (four) were also needed.

Yet, they made up only 60 per cent of the country's golden total, a drop from recent Games when these five core sports combined for more than three-quarters of the golds won.

Instead, Singapore's improved showing was thanks to a bumper crop from less-heralded sports like canoeing, wushu, fencing and waterskiing - 19 golds between them - stepping up.

Furthermore, the host nation is allowed some leeway to pick from a pool of sports and add or reduce events. Hence, the organising committee used this prerogative to tailor the sporting programme to suit Singapore's strengths.

But even without non-core sports like floorball, netball or specially-created events in sailing and squash, Singapore would still have easily eclipsed the 70-gold mark.

For sure, this has been an extraordinary Games for Singapore, surpassing everyone's, including this paper's, expectations.

However, the question whether this result is an anomaly and can be repeated or even surpassed, is a valid one.

There are indications that Malaysia, host of the next Games in two years, will select sports that play to its strengths, thus making it harder for Singapore to dominate as it has done.

While a similar gold rush by Singapore may be unlikely, the future remains bright with a team led by Schooling and Shanti and backed by world-class sailors, bowlers and paddlers.

In fact, more than shiny pieces of metal and medal tables, the legacy of the 28th Games has been about the coming of age of Singapore's athletes.

Each of them, medal around their neck or just tears in their eyes, has been an inspiration.

Despite a swollen eye and blurred vision, there was no surrender from boxer Mohamed Hanurdeen, or any athlete in the Singapore contingent.

Even in defeat (the men's hockey team who lost in a dramatic shoot-out to Malaysia), they moved us, whether on television screens or in packed stadiums.

Athletes like long jumper Eugenia Tan, the first local woman to clear 6m, and marathoner Ashley Liew, who waited for his competitors who had got lost, also showed that one did not have to win medals to inspire.

Yesterday's closing ceremony marked the end of the Games but must also signal a new start - to use this Games as a springboard in Singapore's pursuit of grander sporting ambitions on bigger stages like the Olympic Games.

After all, what had seemed improbable at the start of June has now become reality. Or to paraphrase that old US Army saying, once the impossible is accomplished, miracles are next.

A gold every day
Squash jumbo doubles title ensures Singapore's SEA Games winning streak continues unabated
By Charmaine Ng, The Straits Times, 16 Jun 2015

AS THE second last day of the SEA Games came to a close, Singapore's gold medal-winning streak was in danger of ending.

The women's water polo team had fallen to a shock loss to Thailand in the gold-medal match. With only one other Singapore hope left in gold contention, all eyes were on Marcus Phua and Vivian Rhamanan.

Gold in the men's jumbo doubles would mean a first SEA Games squash title in 20 years - but on this day, it would also mean that Team Singapore's streak of winning a gold every day since June 3 would be kept alive.

So, it was at a packed Tanglin Club that the once childhood rivals combined to overcome Indonesia's Ade Furkon and Sandi A. Perdana 11-3, 11-8 to win gold.

Before the match, the duo witnessed on television the women's water polo team's defeat by their Thai counterparts.

Said Rhamanan, 29, who is also assistant coach for the national squash team: "We were rooting for the girls, hoping they would level at the last minute but unfortunately it didn't happen.

"So we just went out there and did our best. We knew that we could rely on our fitness."

Endurance is a key factor in the jumbo doubles, which was making its Games debut, as each rally takes longer than in a regular singles squash match.

The Singapore pair eased to a 11-3 win in the first game, but the second proved much closer.

With both finalists having played their semi-finals in the morning, fatigue was setting in.

In the second game, each point scored by Singapore was matched by their opponents. But, as they broke away to lead 9-8, the partisan crowd could sense victory.

"Come on, just two more!" yelled a spectator from among the overspilling crowd seated outside the courts, keeping an eye on the match from a live television feed.

While it was unlikely that the pair heard the supportive cry, the contest promptly went to match-point.

And upon taking the winning point, the triumphant pair immediately turned to each other for a relieved embrace.

"Overwhelmed, extremely happy. Man, it's an amazing feeling," said Rhamanan outside the court.

Expectations were high for the duo to deliver, especially since the pair have been undefeated in the event in regional competitions.

With powerhouses Malaysia out of the picture for the event, Singapore had a good chance to end the gold-medal drought and regain their foothold in the sport.

However, despite their gold medal, Phua insisted that their victory did not come easily.

"I don't think it was easy at all even though we didn't drop a game," said the 24-year-old audit associate, who took six months off work to prepare for the Games.

"The Thais, the Filipinos, they really gave us a run for the money. We really had to grind it out.

"I think everyone expected us to get a gold medal in this event. So we needed to deliver and we're really glad we managed to do it."

He added: "If you told me I would be winning the gold with my childhood friend more than 10 years later, I wouldn't have believed it."

With their historic win, the pair said they are hoping to garner more support for the sport in Singapore and move on to compete at bigger Games.

Squash captured four golds at the 1993 SEA Games, but has failed to make an impact since.

Both Phua and Rhamanan hope to continue their partnership and have their sights on competing on the international circuit.

But, for now, the pair just want to enjoy their moment.

Turning to Phua, Rhamanan hugged him, planted a kiss on his cheek and said: "We did it, bro, we did it."

Bronze may mark end of an era
Men cagers earn second successive bronze but could lose coach, captain
By Chua Siang Yee, The Straits Times, 16 Jun 2015

IT WAS a bittersweet night for the Singapore men's basketball team, even as they bagged their second successive SEA Games bronze at the OCBC Arena yesterday.

The hosts edged out Thailand in a 54-49 thriller, making up for the disappointment of the day before when they missed out on a chance for gold by losing to Indonesia in the semi-final.

Yet, yesterday's match could spell the end of an era, with both coach Neo Beng Siang and captain Desmond Oh, who turns 29 today, considering their futures.

An exhausted Neo said after the game: "The coaches' contract ends after the SEA Games, and I'm not sure what the future holds. I need to take a break from basketball and go on a holiday. After that, we will see."

Oh, who sat out the game after suffering a neck injury in the semi-final loss to Indonesia, said: "Basketball is my biggest passion, but my wife is expecting, and I need to stop for a while and think about the second stage of my life.

"I can't play forever."

If it is indeed goodbye for the duo, at least the team gave them a decent farewell gift, bagging the bronze against a Thai team who led by 10 points at one stage.

Singapore, who were missing both Oh and forward Lim Shengyu (ankle injury), were slow from the tip-off, allowing Thailand to lead 31-25 at half-time.

Said Neo: "I told them that we are playing for the country, not for individual glory. They started performing only in the third quarter.

"But I'm proud of how the boys never gave up."

Larry Liew bailed Singapore out with a team-high 18 points, but he fouled out late in the fourth quarter to give the hosts a mild scare.

Singapore had centres Delvin Goh and Russel Low to thank.

Goh sank two clutch free throws with 16 seconds remaining to make it 52-49, while Low had a big game in the paint with nine rebounds and four blocks.

Said Neo: "I'm disappointed that we didn't reach the final, but the team did great to win two consecutive bronzes.

"They showed they have a lot of potential, and I hope they will get more support to help them improve."

Next up for Singapore is the Fiba Asia Championship in September in Changsha, China.

In the final, the Philippines beat Indonesia 72-64 to win their 16th SEA Games title.

Thais shock hosts to land women's water polo gold
By Isaac Neo, The Straits Times, 16 Jun 2015

RIDING on a wave of expectations, the Singapore's women's water polo team had overpowered all opposition before their match against Thailand at the OCBC Aquatic Centre yesterday.

The defending champions from the 2011 Games - the last time women's water polo featured - were confident that they could retain the gold and create a winning legacy like the men's team.

With a superior goal difference atop the round-robin table, they needed just a draw against Thailand to do just that.

But their arch-rivals, who were unbeaten going into yesterday's match, had other thoughts.

As their Italian coach Daniele Ferri said: "We came here for gold. We did not come for silver or bronze."

To the dismay and shock of the fervent home crowd at the Aquatic Centre, they succeeded, stunning Singapore in a narrow 5-4 victory to clinch the gold.

No wonder at the final whistle, the overjoyed Thais celebrated wildly, dunking Ferri into the pool, while the shell-shocked Singaporeans slinked off quietly into a post-match huddle beside the pool.

Tears flowed freely from both sides, albeit for different reasons. Several Singapore players were unable to hide their disappointment, sobbing on the shoulders of one another.

Thailand's Papimol Munchawanont, on the other hand, dissolved into tears of joy as Ferri draped a Thai flag around her shoulders. A jubilant Ferri praised his young team, who only have three players older than 21, labelling them as "heroes" in an extremely tight match.

Both teams were neck-and-neck at 3-3 after the first half, but Thai captain Varistha Saraikarn scored a crucial penalty in the third quarter that ultimately proved the difference between the two sides.

While Singapore tried hard to equalise, they were denied numerous times by the post and Thailand's 15-year-old goalkeeper, Satakamol Wongpairoj, who was in inspired form with 13 saves for the match.

Ferri said that his players' fitness was the key, and added that he hoped his side's success would spur greater interest in the sport back in Thailand, where he had only "20 to 25 players" to work with.

"The Thai women's team deserve attention and support by everyone. My wish now is that more players in Thailand start to play water polo," he said.

Singapore coach Choo Chin Cheng was gracious in defeat, saying that the Thais were the better side.

He brushed aside concerns that his team cracked under pressure from the expectant home crowd, and said that it was due to his side having to constantly attack to make up for the deficit that could have caused nerves to fray.

"They should have been calmer when we were a goal behind and we had to attack. This kind of pressure would have made them nervous," he said.

Despite the agony of losing the gold medal at home, the Singapore camp tried to put a positive spin on things.

Captain Gina Koh said: "We did our best, we have no regrets. I have to say the Thais performed well."

She also praised the home crowd: "They were great. They gave us a lot of support despite the fact that we were lagging behind for the whole game."

Team manager Wong Kok Piew also said that his team were already looking forward.

He added: "If you ask me, this is the beginning of many good things to come for Singapore water polo. We know what went wrong. It's not going to hold us back, we'll come back even stronger."

Let down by poor finish
By Clara Chong, The Straits Times, 16 Jun 2015

WHEN Loh Kean Yew stepped onto the badminton court at the Singapore Indoor Stadium yesterday evening, the boisterous crowd broke into thunderous cheers, clapping and chanting "Sin-ga-pu-ra! Sin-ga-pu-ra!"

However, despite the vociferous home support, the teenager stretched but could not break Malaysian Mohamad Arif Abdul Latif, who won their men's singles semi-final 22-20, 21-15.

Kean Yew, 17, had matched the 25-year-old Arif almost point for point in the first game, taking the Malaysian world No. 67 to 20-20 before eventually losing his patience to go down by two points.

In the second, the Republic Polytechnic student, ranked 72 places below his opponent, even led 10-5 before Arif upped his game to win and book a berth in the final against countryman Chong Wei Feng.

Kean Yew, who captured a bronze medal as a losing semi-finalist, said: "He was more experienced. He broke my momentum when I kept taking points by changing the shuttle, wiping his sweat, saying he was injured.

"I tried to tell myself to continue to focus and not rush, but I guess I was not professional enough. It was a really wasted (opportunity). I was leading at first, but couldn't finish well. I need to learn how to better control my emotions, not to rush, focus on each point instead of wanting to win the match as a whole."

Despite the loss, Malaysia-born Kean Yew, who obtained Singapore citizenship in February, is determined to soldier on in his bid to become a professional.

He is training full time and has already set his sights on doing well at the Asian Junior and World Junior Championships, and in the long run bagging an Olympic gold.

Chew Keet Hou, the Singapore Badminton Association's director of team administration, was full of praise for the youngster, adding: "He definitely has the potential to go further, especially since he is committed to playing badminton full time."

Singapore's other bronze on the day was earned by Danny Bawa Chrisnanta and Chayut Triyachart, who lost 12-21, 18-21 to Ricky Karandasuwardi and Pratama Angga in the men's doubles semi-finals. The Indonesians will face compatriots Gideon Fernaldi and Kevin Sukamuljo in the final today.

Together with the joint-third placings from the men's and women's team, Singapore totalled four bronzes, exceeding their 2013 performance of one bronze.

Gold medal haul for Team Singapore rises to 82
Republic trail only Thailand and could finish second among 11 nations
By Jonathan Wong, The Straits Times, 15 Jun 2015

SINGAPORE'S athletes continued to scale previously unimagined heights yesterday when they took Team Singapore's SEA Games gold medal tally to a stunning 82.

The Republic trail only regional powerhouse Thailand in the 11-nation standings and, by tomorrow's closing ceremony, could finish as the second-best country, a feat last achieved at the 1975 Bangkok Games.

The hosts began yesterday on 74 golds before athletes from bowling, floorball, gymnastics, sailing and silat combined to win eight golds to pass the 80-gold mark - which The Straits Times predicted Singapore would hit.

Singapore's previous best haul of 50 golds, when the Games were last held here in 1993, was surpassed last Tuesday on just the fourth day of competition.

Said chef de mission Nicholas Fang: "It's been a fantastic run for us, and to hit the 80-gold mark and be up among the top three nations in the SEA Games with two days to go is truly remarkable."

While yesterday's victories by bowler Jazreel Tan (women's masters), floorballers and sailors Griselda Khng and Sara Tan (skiff 49erFX), Samantha Neubronner and Elisa Yukie Yokoyama (girls Under-19 420) and the women's keelboat team were expected, there were also breakthroughs.

The women's rhythmic gymnastic team's victory in the group all-around event was the first- ever medal for that discipline.

Said gymnast Ann Sim, 20: "The past few trainings have been really tough... Today, it was all very worthwhile."

Local silat exponent Muhammad Nur Alfian Juma'en, 18, was the defending SEA Games champion in the men's tanding Class F (70-75kg), but his was nevertheless an unexpected triumph as he had to beat Vietnam's world champion Tran Dinh Nam.

It was Alfian, with a bleeding foot but refusing to quit, whose gold was confirmed as the country's 80th. It bore all the hallmarks of Singapore athletes' performance at the 28th Games - that of tenacity and courage.

With 17 golds left in two days of competition, Singapore are unlikely to overtake Thailand, on 87. Third-placed Vietnam, on 73 golds, are unlikely to catch Singapore, who are strong bets to win water polo and squash titles.

A total of 17 different sports have won golds for Singapore, a heartening sign, said Mr Fang. "Hopefully, this will persist... as we continue on our journey to become a truly sporting nation."

Blood, sweat & tears for gold
Happy fighter teary as he ensures S'pore silat team do not end up winless
By Jeremy Lim, The Straits Times, 15 Jun 2015

IT ALL came down to Muhammad Nur Alfian Juma'en. Whether the national silat team ended their SEA Games in disaster or with a glorious gold rested solely on the shoulders of the 18-year-old.

Everything about the Class F (70-75kg) gold-medal match oozed pressure. The expectant looks on the faces of the Singapore team. A packed Singapore Expo Hall 2, still awaiting a first win. Not to mention that standing in his way was a current world champion in Tran Dinh Nam from Vietnam.

The last thing Alfian needed was another obstacle. But it came midway through his match.

But even as the pain from a deep cut between his toes coursed through his body, he knew this was not the time to let up.

Holding a slight edge going into the final round, Alfian knew he needed another good move to seal the win.

His approach to the game had been one of patience. And so he waited. And when Tran left his right leg hanging after an attempted kick, he saw his chance.

Grabbing the Vietnamese fighter's right foot, he promptly swept his opponent's left to send him to the mat, scoring four points and virtually sealing the gold.

The confirmation would come just minutes later at the final gong when judges ruled the match 5-0 in favour of the Singaporean.

It sparked wild celebrations in the arena, none more than from Singapore Silat Federation (Persisi) CEO Sheik Alau'ddin, who gave his champion a bear hug.

The victory proved to be an especially special moment for Alfian. He had lost 2-3 to Tran in the quarter-finals of January's World Championships in Phuket.

"I can't describe how happy I feel right now," said the Ngee Ann Polytechnic student as he held the national flag in one hand as tears streamed down his cheeks.

"To say that I am 100 times happy cannot match how I feel. My diet, training and sacrifices made have finally paid off."

The defending SEA Games champion attributed his victory to a change in strategy from the last time he met Tran.

He said: "Watching the video from the World Champs showed that I was always attacking first.

"So, this time, I waited for him to strike before catching him on the counter-attack."

Said an emotional Sheik: "Alfian's gold gave silat something to give Singapore."

But while overjoyed with the lone gold, he could not hide his disappointment over what he felt was a poor selection of judges.

He claimed poor judging cost Singapore at least one gold medal as the silat team ended the Games with a haul of one gold, one silver and six bronzes.

He felt that the event should have judges from neutral countries instead of those from nations participating at the SEA Games.

He added that he would be submitting a full report to the International Silat Federation.

The controversy over the jury panel was also pointed out by Thailand, who protested Khansakhon Nanthachai's disqualification for performing an illegal kick on Malaysia's Muhammad Nasir in the men's Tanding Class B (50-55kg) final.

Suhartono, Thailand's head coach, slammed what he called a "poor standard of judging".

He said: "Our player is the defending champion from 2013's SEA Games and everyone wants to beat him. I protested because it was clear in the video replay that his opponent was full of drama."

However, Shafaq Ali Haq, the chief juror of the panel, is adamant that the situation is under control.

Said the Singaporean who is the chairman of competition: "The protest was all at the spur of the moment, and in contact sports like silat, it is very easy for people to get excited."

But while controversy may have marred the Games for the Singapore team, they can at least savour Alfian's gold. He sure is.

"It is very satisfying to win this gold medal and show that silat can do well in the SEA Games," said the champion.

"It was truly a special moment for me. To beat the world champion, to beat the man whom I lost to and to defend my title at home is unforgettable."

Gallant penalty shoot-out performance delivers gold
By Toh Ting Wei, The Straits Times, 15 Jun 2015

OVER three periods of 20 minutes, 10 minutes of sudden-death extra-time and five penalties in the shoot-out, she dived, she stood firm, she was quick off her line, and she filled the goal.

Throughout, the crowd at ITE College Central never got a clear look at the face of the woman in the iron mask.

But when Fariza Begum read the movement of Chonnakan Kruarod and made the decisive plunge at the Thai's feet to save the penalty that won Singapore the SEA Games women's floorball gold, she celebrated by hurling her helmet into the air.

At last, the 1,100 spectators could see and acclaim the goalkeeper, who amazingly stopped four out of the five bullets in the sport's version of the Russian roulette as the Republic won 2-1 on penalties after a 3-3 draw.

Fariza, who was mobbed by her team-mates at the end of the final, said: "I have never played in a shoot-out at an international level before.

"But I have been practising (saving penalties) in training, and it was the best I could give.

"I read the opponents' movement, and, when I felt that I had my angles covered, then I would commit myself to the ball."

Much as the jubilant Singapore fans thought the 26-year-old PE teacher at Yuying Secondary School had ice in her veins, Fariza disputed that.

She said: "I will be bluffing if I said I wasn't nervous at all, but I wanted to do it for my team- mates."

Singapore's other outstanding performers against the Thais were 36-year-old veteran Jill Quek, who scored the first penalty in the shoot-out, and youngster Natalia Wee, who rounded the goalkeeper to convert what proved to be the decisive penalty.

The 20-year-old said: "It was definitely pressurising, but as a team we were cheering one another on, and, along with Fariza's saves, it did motivate me."

While Singapore were expected to cruise towards the women's floorball gold, victory was far from straightforward in the final.

The match ended 3-3 in regulation time with Yeo Xuan, Ong Hui Hui and Debbie Poh scoring but Sunaree Thoeng, Thanaporn Tongkham and Thararat Duangporn replying for Thailand.

Despite missing out on the gold, Thailand coach Stefan Dahlgren was delighted with the performance of his side, who were formed just six months ago, and he was particularly proud that his players held Singapore all the way to a shoot-out.

Dahlgren said: "Fariza as a goalkeeper was the best player alongside Jill Quek, so I think that says a lot about how well we have played.

"The Thailand teams have developed very fast, and in two years' time Thailand will be a huge challenger for the SEA Games, and even at the Asia level."

Men's team on cloud 9
By Chua Siang Yee, The Straits Times, 15 Jun 2015

JUST moments earlier, the Singapore men's floorball team sat in the stands and watched as their female counterparts eked out a nerve-racking penalty shoot-out win over Thailand.

But if the sell-out crowd of 1,100 at ITE College Central expected a similarly tight affair in the men's final between the same two sides, they were mistaken.

Tellingly, when both sides met in the preliminary round, Singapore won 4-2, suggesting that the final might go to the wire.

But Singapore tore up the script, running riot as they put nine past Thailand with no reply.

Such was the hosts' dominance that, in the closing minutes, the boisterous home crowd, who did not stop cheering from the opening whistle, started chanting "we want 10 (goals)" repeatedly.

Said Singapore coach R. Saravanan: "Before the match, people came up to tell me 'please don't give us a heart attack like the girls'. Thankfully, we showed the spectators what we were capable of. We were just on fire."

Thailand coach Stefan Dahlgren bemoaned his side's poor start. Said the Swede: "If we had scored the first goal, the outlook would have been different."

Forward Rashid Jalaluddin opened the scoring for the hosts, netting from close range in the first period. But the visitors put up a good fight in what was a physical affair, and the score remained 1-0 at the break.

Said Saravanan: "Although we were 1-0 up, I told the boys we were playing to Thailand's level. That was unacceptable.

"There were some strong words in the dressing room."

Whatever was said had an impact as Alvin Tan, Abdul Hafiz Zubir and Lim Jian Hong put the hosts 4-0 up after the second period. It was one-way traffic in the third as Singapore pummelled the Thais with goals from Mckenrick Lim, Siraaj Ramadhan (two) and captain Syazni Ramlee.

Saravanan hopes the manner of victory will inspire more to pick up the sport, and continue Singapore's dominance in the region.

SEA Games gymnastics: Singapore take historic group all-around gold
SEA GAMES 2015 rhythmic gymnastics: Singapore bagged their first-ever gold medal in the Group All-Round Final Rotation, beating competitors Malaysia and Thailand with a score of 27.700. For more Games action:
Posted by Channel NewsAsia Singapore on Sunday, June 14, 2015

Gymnasts find their rhythm at last
S'pore win first gold on last day in group all-around event
By Charles Ong, The Straits Times, 15 Jun 2015

IT WAS a string of frustrating near misses for Singapore's gymnastics team last week, with three silvers but no golds to show for.

It all boiled down to the final event of the competition for the rhythmic gymnasts to try and end the country's hunt for a first gold in the sport at these SEA Games.

They delivered just that in front of an expectant home crowd at the Bishan Sports Hall yesterday, winning the inaugural group all-around competition with a 27.700-point showing, edging out Malaysia by a mere 0.300 point.

Thailand finished third with a 22.150 score.

Last week, Singapore were pipped by their neighbours in their bid to secure a fourth consecutive gold in the women's artistic gymnastics team final.

But there was no denying the Singaporeans this time.

Twice, the Malaysians laid down the gauntlet with graceful routines but both times the Republic's gymnasts held their nerve with much poise and artistry.

While the quintet - Dawne Chua, Noelle Goh, Edlyn Ho, Alison Tang and captain Ann Sim - might be of unknown quantity, their exuberance and execution won the hearts of fans and judges.

Their artistic gymnastics team-mates were in the stands, cheering them on with every elegant toss of apparatus into the air.

Upon finishing their final routine, they waited for a few minutes before their score was revealed to indicate that they were in the lead.

Still, it was tense as they had to wait for Thailand to perform.

But joy erupted in the sports hall the moment confirmation came through that Singapore had emerged as champions.

"It's a historic moment for the (rhythmic) discipline as it's our first medal. It's really memorable," said Sim.

The Singapore Polytechnic Year 3 accountancy student believes that their triumph can herald a new start for the sport she loves.

"We haven't got as much attention as compared to the artistic discipline," the 20-year-old said.

"(But) this is the turning point because people will start to realise how graceful and elegant it is."

Malaysian Gymnastics Federation vice-president Petrina Low was left to rue over what might have been had her charges performed to expectations.

"Our second routine's score was a bit low. Nevertheless, the mistakes in the first routine jeopardised the gold," she said.

"In two years' time, we'll bounce back."

Earlier yesterday, however, it looked business as usual for Malaysia as they dominated proceedings in the individual all-around final.

Koi Sie Yan and Shasangari S. Nagarajan clinched joint golds, each scoring 60.250 points.

Thailand's Panjarat Prawatyotin took bronze with 57.350.

"It's actually surprising and unbelievable. To win two golds instead of a gold and a silver - it's a miracle," said 16-year-old Shasangari.

Bishan has certainly proved a happy hunting ground for the Malaysians as they finished the competition with five golds.

But for the fans who thronged the venue over six days of competition, Singapore's solitary gold is likely to mean the most.

The decibel levels were high, the placards were on display and the fans were a sea of red in support of the local gymnasts.

As Sim aptly put it: "We expected the crowd to be huge and very supportive.

"All we wanted was to (channel) their energy to focus on the mat and boost our morale."

It certainly did and the team will come away with renewed hope for the future, confident that they can tackle greater challenges.

Women sailors' treble gives final-day cheer
10-gold haul is Games record but next hosts Malaysia catching up fast
By May Chen And Ho Si Rui, The Straits Times, 15 Jun 2015

HAVING already bagged two out of three golds on offer at the National Sailing Centre, Singapore's sailors raced to Marina Bay yesterday afternoon in a triumphant mood, ready to cheer their team-mates on in the sport's last four events of the SEA Games.

They arrived to a muted atmosphere and dark clouds looming over the bay.

Singapore's men's Laser Standard team, undefeated in the round-robin stages, had just been pipped to gold by Malaysia, with Colin Cheng, Scott Glen Sydney and Ryan Lo beaten 2-0 in the best-of-three final.

The men's keelboaters, too, soon settled for silver after Stanley Chan, Colin Ng and Anthony Kiong lost their medal race 0-2 to the Philippines.

But, by the time clear skies returned in the evening, it was undeniable that Singapore's sailors still had plenty to cheer about.

The team finished the top sailing nation of the Games with 10 golds, seven silvers and one bronze, surpassing their best haul of seven titles from the 2005 edition in Manila.

The women accounted for all three titles clinched yesterday, with women's skiff 49erFX pair of Griselda Khng and Sara Tan flawless en route to winning gold, winning all 10 races in the opening series, as well as yesterday's medal race.

Yukie Yokoyama and Samantha Neubronner also took top position in the women's 420 event.

The women's keelboat team of Jovina Choo, Terena Lam, Dawn Liu and Daniella Ng - already champions in the fleet racing event - completed a double by winning the match-racing event yesterday at Marina Bay.

Despite their stellar showing, skiff 49erFX helm Khng said there is still much to improve on if they are to earn a berth at next year's Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Said the 23-year-old: "There are still things in the races that didn't go so well, so we have to sit down and review where we went wrong and see what can be improved on."

For Yukie, who had won the Optimist gold at the 2011 Games in Indonesia, victory tastes sweeter when it is shared with a partner.

The 18-year-old and Samantha, 17, had a four-point lead going into the medal race, but they were mindful about keeping their closest competitors Malaysia at bay.

She said: "It was very nerve-racking waiting for the race to start... This feels more special because I get to win it with a team-mate. It's like sharing the joy."

The women's keelboat team clinched their gold without having to even get into their boats yesterday, after poor wind conditions delayed races for almost four hours.

Race regulations stipulate that no race can be started after 5.30pm. The gold was awarded to them based on their unbeaten record in the round-robin stage.

In the men's 420 event, held at the National Sailing Centre, Loh Jia Yi and Matthew Scott Lau came in second best to Malaysia's Muhamad Uzair Amin Mohd Yusof and Naquib Eiman Shahrin. Thailand's Puvich Chanyim and Sarawut Phetsiri were third.

Singapore Sailing Federation president Ben Tan credited the team for a good showing, particularly lauding the technique and tactics on display over the past 11/2 weeks.

He said: "What's important for me is how they sailed - the quality of (it)."

But, with Causeway rivals Malaysia hot on Singapore's heels with seven golds, Tan also cautioned against complacency.

"Our sailors can never rest on their laurels... We always have the highest regard for our neighbours," he said.

Singapore rowers lift the gloom with bright show
By Clara Chong, The Straits Times, 15 Jun 2015

THE inclement weather yesterday morning failed to deter Singapore's men's lightweight coxless four rowing team from making history. They clinched a SEA Games silver in the 1,000m race at Marina Bay - the Republic's first medal in the event.

Syahir Ezekiel Rafa'ee, Pek Hong Kiat, Lee Zong Han and Nadzrie Hyckell Hamazah clocked 3min 5.25sec to finish behind the Indonesian quartet (3:02.28) and just ahead of the Vietnamese (3:06.60).

Said Syahir: "Initially, one of my team-mates caught a very bad stroke, causing us to be last.

"But after 500m, we caught up and we were so hungry to win that we managed to pull through."

Earlier, his sister Saiyidah Aisyah also managed a podium finish. The 2013 gold medallist in the lightweight single sculls 2,000m race earned a bronze in the 1,000m competition.

She completed the race in 3:59.01, just 0.08sec behind silver medallist Daimoi Maryam Makdalena of Indonesia.

The gold went to Phuttharaksa Neegree of Thailand (3:55.27).

An exhausted Saiyidah said she was satisfied with the bronze, adding: "I am really pleased with my race. I have never pushed so hard before. I couldn't stand after that.

"It was a very close race but I left the boat with no regrets."

Team-mates Joanna Chan and Joan Poh won a bronze in the women's pair 1,000m, finishing in 3:48.78 behind Vietnam (3:41.72) and Indonesia (3:41.79).

Singapore Rowing Association vice-president K. Gopalakrishnan believes that the Games' performance by the rowing team (one silver and three bronzes) was better than Saiyidah's lone gold showing in 2013.

He added: "We will continue with our training and talent identification. We want to create more awareness of this sport.

"It is a big challenge to find a training venue but we want to improve our existing rowers and send them to other training and improve their existing techniques."

Jazreel grabs Games solo gold finally
By Jonathan Wong, The Straits Times, 15 Jun 2015

IT HAS taken a decade of trying, but Jazreel Tan can finally call herself a SEA Games individual bowling champion.

Since making her debut at the 2005 edition as a 16-year-old, the Games has been a constant source of heartbreak for her.

So, there was only relief and vindication yesterday at the Orchid Bowl, after she produced a sublime performance to capture the women's masters gold.

She had come out tops with 3,497 pinfalls for the 16-game qualifying segment, and carried that form into the grand finals as she beat team-mate Daphne Tan 516-353 over two games.

Said Jazreel, 25: "To finally win a championship by myself is just amazing and feels so sweet."

Narrow misses had become an unwanted association with her at the SEA Games. She has a masters silver from 2005 and a singles bronze from 2011 to go with her runner-up finish to Daphne in the singles event last week.

Said Jazreel, who also picked up an individual silver and bronze at last year's Asian Games in Incheon: "For a while it felt like this tournament was going to end up like all the others and I was going to miss out again."

Her aim, however, proved to be unerring on the medium oil pattern - which she had chosen as her prerogative for being the top seed - and she bowled 17 strikes for back-to-back 258 scores.

Said Daphne: "Jaz got off to a great start and I tried everything but couldn't catch her. She bowled amazingly today."

In fact, Singapore's female keglers were astonishingly dominant in the masters competition. All three spots in the stepladder finals were taken by them, the first time this has happened since Malaysia did so at the 1993 Games.

Singapore's Shayna Ng, who qualified second with 3,424 pinfalls but lost to Daphne (3,418) in the stepladder finals, did not receive a bronze.

It went to sixth- placed Indonesian Tannya Roumimper (3,379), in accordance with SEA Games rules that do not allow a nation to occupy all three podium spots.

In the men's masters, Thai Yannaphon Larpapharat defeated Malaysian Rafiq Ismail 414-381 to claim the gold.

Malaysia finished top of the standings with five golds, one silver and four bronzes. Singapore (four golds, five silvers, one bronze) were second.

Singapore Bowling Federation president Jessie Phua was more circumspect in her assessment of the women bowlers, who faltered in the doubles and team event.

She said: "It's a bit disappointing as the medal haul is not reflective of their world-class calibre. At least we ended on a high."

Singapore push Malaysia to brink
Penalty shootout gives defending champions the title after dramatic tie in regulation time
By Wang Meng Meng and Jeremy Lim, The Sunday Times, 14 Jun 2015

For 42 years, a big, yellow-and-black-striped cat has jealously guarded the SEA Games men's hockey throne, never once loosening its grip on supremacy.

The last team to knock Malaysia off their perch were Singapore, who defeated their Causeway rivals on home soil in the 1973 final.

That vice-like hold was oh so nearly broken last night as the hosts took the defending champions - their 13 consecutive golds notwithstanding - all the way to penalty strokes, losing 3-4 after forcing a last-gasp 2-2 draw in regulation time.

Such was the determination of the Singapore team that Malaysia's team manager Mirnawan Nawawi thought he saw flashbacks of 1973.

He said: "Today's match reminded me of how Singapore almost repeated their 1973 result. I played in the 1999 SEA Games in Brunei against Singapore and even though we won 1-0, we were struggling and (today's game) felt similar."

With five straight friendly losses to Malaysia in the run-up to these SEA Games (0-7, 1-2, 0-5, 2-4 and 2-6), the Singapore team were expected to mount a damage-limitation exercise.

True to the form book, Malaysia took the lead through Mohd Aminudin's 14th-minute penalty corner before Abdul Rahman Azwar slammed in a second goal in the 45th minute.

Spurred on by the full house of 3,200 fans at the Sengkang Hockey Stadium, Abdul Hafiz pulled one back in the 51st after an assist from captain Enrico Marican and striker Timothy Goh scrambled home the equaliser in the 69th after a brilliant solo run from Marican shredded Malaysia's defence to force the game to penalties.

But Singapore were undone after missing their first two penalty strokes through Nur Ashriq Zulkepli and Marican, allowing the Malaysians to triumph 4-3.

Though disappointed after letting the gold slip, skipper Marican was still happy with the performance, saying: "We kept our structure and discipline throughout the entire match and I cannot be any prouder of my team. We have lost all our past matches and to draw against the Malaysians today shows how much we have improved."

Singapore coach Solomon Casoojee added: "The players showed character and we played well against a team (with) better technical qualities than us and the boys played with good composure.

"Through these few years with the boys, every defeat has been an opportunity of learning for them and they have been improving tremendously ever since. We're still not there yet, but we are making progress."

Winner makes his Mark
Teen's slalom gold and record topped off by Christian's 2nd gold medal in two days
By Berenice Low, The Sunday Times, 14 Jun 2015

They returned with one gold, three silvers and two bronzes from the 2011 SEA Games in Indonesia but Singapore's wakeboarders and waterskiers could not show their flair in 2013 when the sport was not offered in Myanmar.

Given the opportunity to shine again this year, and in front of the home crowd, the wakeboard and waterski team did not disappoint, and by the third day of competition yesterday had bagged three golds and two bronzes - with Sasha Christian and Mark Leong standing out.

"The team is generally performing to the standard they expected themselves to," said Geoffrey Kee, team manager of the Singapore waterskiing team.

"It's difficult to build a strong team when the discipline is featured irregularly.

"It's been challenging for us due to the start-stop opportunities but we have a group of very dedicated riders."

Yesterday, Mark made waves when he clinched the men's slalom gold with three buoys on the 12m rope - a new national and Games record that stood for only one morning before he rewrote it in the afternoon when he rounded four buoys in the men's slalom overall preliminaries.

"I had my eyes on the record last night but my coach told me that records mean nothing in comparison to the competition position," said the delighted 17-year-old.

He had put his studies on hold for a year to train for the Games before enrolling in Catholic Junior College next year.

"Still, I was happy with the record, I hope it will stay for a long time and I will aim to improve on it."

While Mark had an easy run in the preliminaries, the slalom final was much more tense as Indonesian Hardinata Indra, the 2011 bronze medallist, cleared two buoys on the 13m rope.

However, the Singaporean replied by starting with simple warm-up passes with an 18m rope, before slowly decreasing the rope length and executing his record-breaking effort.

In the women's slalom, Christian, 22, easily rounded three buoys to clinch gold to make up for her disappointment in 2011 when she was second.

She said: "I really wanted it this morning. I was nervous - I don't think I've ever wanted it so badly in my life before."

On Friday, she had got off to a good start by winning gold in the women's wakeboard.

Kalya Kee also chipped in with a bronze yesterday after finishing third in the women's slalom with five buoys on the 14.25m rope, a huge improvement from her preliminary score of 4.5 buoys on the 18.25m rope.

Kalya, 19, had suffered a severe cut to her face after a crash during training just before the Games. That had left her with 13 stitches and the doctor advising her not to compete.

"Considering her injury and the amount of time she got to spend on training due to school commitments, she has performed very well. She's a fighter," said Geoffrey, who is also Kalya's father.

Her bronze is also an improvement on her fourth-place finish at the 2011 Games.

The team will be gunning for more medals today in the team wakeboard and overall events in the last day of the discipline at the 28th SEA Games.

Silver boosts jumbo doubles prospects
By Lok Weng Seng, The Sunday Times, 14 Jun 2015

As the Singapore men's squash team head into today's jumbo doubles preliminaries against the Philippines and Myanmar, they are boosted by the silver they received yesterday after a 2-0 defeat by Malaysia in the team event.

Although that did not end the Republic's quest for a first SEA Games gold in 22 years, it was the first podium finish since a silver in 2001 and comes as a timely shot in the arm. It also raised hopes that the sport is on track to eventually emulate the glorious side of 1993, who swept all four gold medals in the meet held on home soil.

Singapore coach Ibrahim Gul said: "We were the dominant force back then because there was not much competition.

"I am confident about double jumbo but today was a wake-up call for us."

Singapore Squash Rackets Association president Woffles Wu is equally optimistic, saying: "We already did very well to get a silver because the other countries were not pushovers.

"It would have been a nice bonus to get the gold but we did not, so we should put it behind us and not get derailed by today's results.

"Our target has always been the men's jumbo doubles, which is our pet event."

Although outclassed by Malaysia at Kallang Squash Centre, the Singapore team believe they threw everything at the favourites and will come back for more.

Samuel Kang, 24, was beaten 3-1 by Bahtiar Muhd (10-12, 11-8, 11-6, 11-9) while team-mate Vivian Rhamanan, 29, who played the second match, lost to Malaysia's Sanjay S. Chal 3-0 (11-4, 11-2, 11-2) in just 20 minutes. The third match was not played.

Said Kang: "I gave it everything I had but they (Malaysia) played very well and deserve their medal. All we can do is just keep our heads up because we still have the jumbo doubles to go and we have a good chance to get gold for that."

An emotional Vivian, who was teary-eyed, added: "They are the powerhouse and we were the underdogs. My boys fought hard, and they can be proud of themselves, the pressure had been on us but we did our best."

Jodie and 470 pair help turn the tide
Singaporeans win to make up for previous disappointments competing at home
By Toh Ting Wei and Ho Si Rui, The Sunday Times, 14 Jun 2015

There were no wild celebrations for Singapore sailors Jeremiah Yeo and Darren Choy after confirming their victory in the men's 470 event yesterday.

No hugs, no high-fives, not even a fist pump as they pulled their sailboat ashore after the final race.

Yet, for Choy, 21, this SEA Games gold-medal triumph is particularly sweet, as it eases the disappointment of his performance at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games (YOG) on home soil in 2010.

Then, he was highly fancied to land a first YOG gold for Singapore, having been a two-time world champion in the Byte CII sailing class in which he was competing.

However, the pressure to deliver proved too much then and he finished seventh.

Thus, yesterday's victory on home soil went a long way in healing those old wounds for Choy, as he admitted: "The feeling is really awesome.

"I was supposed to deliver on home ground last time but I couldn't.

"The only word that went through my mind was redemption."

Choy - who won bronze in the same event at the 2013 Myanmar Games - was keen to credit Yeo for the improvement in results.

He pointed out that their six years of friendship allowed for a good understanding and communication, which helped pave the way for yesterday's success.

With a four-point lead over second-placed Lester Troy Tayong and Emerson Villena of the Philippines before yesterday's final race, the duo could even have finished one place behind the Filipinos and still secured gold.

They finished third, just ahead of the Filipinos, and took the gold with 18 points to their rivals' 24.

The Thai pair of Thanaphong Kamonvat and Naveen Thamsoontorn settled for bronze with 25 points.

Said Yeo, also 21: "We were just watching the Philippines and defending our position. Once the race started, our anxiety turned into determination."

Later in the afternoon, Singapore secured their second sailing gold of the day in the female Optimist category through Asian Games champion Jodie Lai.

The 14-year-old finished with 13 points while Thailand's Klahan Kamonchanok and Malaysia's Nabila Natasha Nazri were second and third respectively.

Like Choy, Jodie had also managed to bounce back from a painful defeat.

Last Sunday, she was part of Singapore's Optimist team who were highly fancied to win gold but lost to Malaysia.

Said Jodie: "I gave my best and I couldn't improve any more even if I went back in time.

"I was most nervous at the last part of the race and I kept looking at Natasha. When I crossed the line in front of her, I felt very relieved."

The youngster was carried out of the water, while still in her dinghy, by her jubilant team-mates who have so far delivered seven golds for Team Singapore.

But, it was not all smooth sailing yesterday. Savannah Siew and Amanda Ng failed to land a medal after coming in last in the three-team women's 470 competition, finishing behind Malaysia and Thailand (only the top two receive medals).

Daniel Toh had to settle for bronze after being edged out by Thailand's Suthon Yampinid for silver in the boys' Optimist.

Malaysia's Fauzi Kaman Shah took gold after a first-place finish in the medal race.

Nevertheless, Singapore Sailing Federation president Ben Tan is pleased with the performances.

He added: "The victory in the 470 event is the most significant one because it is an Olympics Class event.

"Yeo and Choy have a tough journey ahead with tough competitions even in Asia.

"But they are up for it. I can sense it."

Relay mark but gold still eludes quartet
By Chuan Limin, The Straits Times, 13 Jun 2015

IT WAS the fastest race they had ever run. But try as they did, the Singapore men's 4x100m relay team still could not beat their Thai counterparts yesterday.

For a fourth straight SEA Games, a Singapore quartet had to settle for the silver medal, even though they rewrote the national record in front of a raucous, 8,972-strong crowd at the National Stadium.

Said Calvin Kang, who ran the first leg: "It's bittersweet, emotionally. This is our fastest time ever, but still not good enough for the gold.

"We ran our hearts out today... but when we go back to the hotel, I think we'll feel a bit of a loss."

Coming into the final leg of the relay, anchor runner Amirudin Jamal sprinted with renewed vigour - torso perfectly perpendicular to the ground, arms and legs churning forward with passion.

But try as he might, the gap between him and the leading Thai would not close.

The Singaporeans finished second in 39.24sec, while the Thai quartet managed 38.99. The Indonesian team took bronze in 39.32.

For the Singapore team of Kang, Lee Cheng Wei, Gary Yeo and Amirudin, their effort smashed the previous national record of 39.45, set two years ago at the 2013 Asian Grand Prix.

Yesterday's time would have secured them the gold at the 2013 SEA Games.

A frustrated Yeo said: "Nobody likes to keep getting silver. Every time we race, we race to get a gold."

Playing second fiddle four times in a row can start to feel like one is eternally overshadowed, and some questions remained unanswered.

As Kang said: "I think all of us are feeling like: Could we have done better? Could we outrun the Thais?

What made the race poignant for all four men was that it was probably their last run together, after a long, fruitful partnership which has seen a couple of them sacrificing their studies to train full-time in their bid for gold.

Said a tearful Yeo: "These are my last SEA Games... Of course I'm sad."

The women's 4x100m team also smashed the national record yesterday - and also suffered the heartbreak of not getting the medal they had hoped for.

Wendy Enn, Dipna Lim-Prasad, Shanti Pereira and Smriti Menon rewrote the national record with a blistering time of 45.41, slashing their old record of 46.44 by more than a second.

Yet, they missed out on the bronze medal, pipped by Malaysia in a photo finish, as the team - as well as the crowd - were made to wait for a few anxious minutes before groaning in disappointment.

Nevertheless, an elated Lim- Prasad said: "Our main goal was to break our national record. To be able to do so, and by so much, it's more than we can ask for."

High jumper Michelle Sng and discus thrower Hannah Lee added to Singapore's tally with a bronze each, although each felt she could have managed a better result.

Sng's 1.81m effort fell short of her personal best of 1.84m, while Lee's 45.72m effort also paled in comparison to her PB of 45.91.

Shooters hit the target of team gold
By Charmaine Ng, The Straits Times, 13 Jun 2015

ZAIN Amat would rather not know how his competitors are performing.

At the men's trap qualifications yesterday, the 40-year-old was concentrating on getting his shots on the clay targets launched from a machine in a trench in front of him.

Keeping his head down, Zain looked at the ground to maintain his focus, choosing not to glance at his fellow shooters. And it worked - the 2007 SEA Games individual gold medallist performed the best among 15 competitors with 116 points.

His team-mates, 2005 individual gold medallist Choo Choon Seng and debutant Lin Hejun, scored 116 and 111 points respectively.

With a combined score of 343, the trio won Singapore's first SEA Games team gold in eight years and the 12th such gold for Singapore since the 1975 edition.

Clay shooting, including the trap and skeet events, did not feature at the last three Games because hosts Myanmar, Indonesia and Laos did not have a large enough range.

As a result, trap shooting as a competitive sport is not as popular among shooters in Singapore as rifle shooting.

"But the shooting never stops," said Zain, who is a police officer. "There's also the World Cup, World Championships, Asian Games and Commonwealth Games."

After winning the team gold, Zain and Choo moved on to the semi-finals in the individual event. While Choo did not progress further, Zain shot enough targets to qualify for the bronze-medal match against Eric Ang, eventually beating the Filipino 13-10.

For Zain, though, his crosshairs have always been trained on winning for the team rather than on individual glory.

"Our target was actually the team gold medal more than the individual, because it's always the country first," he said.

Vietnam's Le Nghia won the individual gold, beating Malaysia's Chen Seong Fook 12-10 in the gold-medal match.

Zain, who has more than 10 years of competitive shooting under his belt, hopes the team's gold medal will attract young Singaporeans to the sport.

He said: "We are willing to coach young shooters for free. We just want to impart our knowledge and skills. Everyone grows old some day and we need young blood. This is a sport that Singapore can win (medals) in."

The final day of the shooting competition yesterday also saw Singapore's women shooters taking a team bronze in the 50m rifle three positions.

Jasmine Ser, Li Yafei and Cheng Jian Huan had a combined score of 1,710, while Thailand won gold with 1,735 points and Malaysia were second with 1,718.

Ser, who is a 2014 Commonwealth Games gold medallist, made a surprise exit in the qualification round. The 24-year-old was ranked ninth out of 14 competitors and missed out on the semi-finals by one point.

"I'm not exactly happy with how I did today, but I tried my best," she said.

"I think my body is clearly tired from travelling and competing. Now is the time to rest and recover because I'm set on my next journey to qualify for the Olympics again."

Ser won a gold and silver in the women's team and individual air rifle 10m events respectively, and bronzes in the 50m rifle prone team and individual events.

Sim and Kang get a big kick out of fans
Home support spurs them to clinch taekwondo golds, ending 16-year wait
By Low Jay Sen, The Straits Times, 13 Jun 2015

OVER four short minutes each, with every stance, every kick and every punch in the individual poomsae events, Singapore's Chelsea Sim and Kang Rui Jie chipped away 16 years of anguish to triumph in taekwondo since S. Sinnathurai won in the men's kyorugi flyweight event in 1999.

World champion Rinna Babanto, was blown away by 19-year-old Sim, whose confident moves in the women's event earned her 8.000 points to push her Filipino rival (7.480) to silver.

Just as impressive was 20-year-old Kang's poised display in the men's event that earned him 8.135 to stand top of the podium, ahead of Indonesia's Maulana Haidir with 7.635.

Little wonder that Singapore Taekwondo Federation president Milan Kwee is looking forward to a bright future for the sport, saying: "We are quite fortunate to have these two exceptional kids.

"They have sacrificed a lot and have been disciplined to train so hard and get the gold despite having to juggle their studies at the same time. We hope this win will help us build a pipeline of talent for the future."

National coach and four-time SEA Games gold medallist Wong Liang Ming added: "It's a great achievement for us, it's been a long wait.

"I told them today the stage is theirs and to blow the competition away."

To make the day even more special, Sim and Kang paired up to score 7.720 to share a bronze with Thailand after the mixed pair poomsae final, behind Vietnam (7.885) and Malaysia (7.785).

Also, kyorugi exponents Ng Ming Wei (men's 54kg) and Chew Xin Wei (women's 46kg) are assured of bronzes. In the semi-finals, Ng lost to Indonesian Reinaldy Atmanegara 7-21 while Chew was beaten by Filipino Irene Therese Bermejo 29-5.

Sim, a Singapore Management University undergraduate, was quick to credit her support system for her win, saying: "It was a very humbling experience when I heard the national anthem.

"All this success is attributed to help from my family, friends, coaches, the federation and all who supported me."

Kang, who is studying aerospace electronics at Temasek Polytechnic, said: "The support from the home crowd made the difference, it really pushed us on."

It remains to be seen if the team can emulate their best SEA Games showing in 1993 - five golds, four silvers and four bronzes - but coach Wong is already delighted with yesterday's haul.

She said: "I was hoping for one gold but two is a bonus.

"Rui Jie was exceptionally good today; he was very focused, his patterns were very stable, his forms are almost perfect."

Coach Aide resigns as Singapore crash out
Hosts fall 0-1 to Indonesia and will have no part to play in semi-finals
By Sanjay Nair, The Straits Times, 12 Jun 2015

Singapore 0

Indonesia 1

NATIONAL Under-23 coach Aide Iskandar delivered the biggest shock of the SEA Games football competition when he resigned immediately after the Young Lions' 0-1 loss to Indonesia at the Jalan Besar Stadium yesterday.

The defeat ended Singapore's involvement in the SEA Games football tournament in the group stages, an outcome which would have been described as a big surprise coming into the tournament.

But no one could have predicted the bombshell the embattled coach dropped just minutes after his side crashed out, becoming the first Singapore side not to make the last four at a Games on home soil.

In a brief address where he took no questions, he said: "Starting two years ago, I tried to build a team for this SEA Games. I faced a lot of challenges as coach.

"Tonight, Irfan Fandi and Faris Ramli weren't fully fit so I could not start them. I'm very proud of my boys, they pushed for the equaliser even when we were one man down."

Then, fighting back tears, the former national skipper said: "I thank you all for your support. I want to go back to my family now. They have been waiting for me for a long time."

Football Association of Singapore (FAS) president Zainudin Nordin said the FAS would speak to Aide and ask him to reconsider.

He said: "I can understand why Aide has made this decision at this point of time...

"Regardless of how we have fared at the SEA Games, Aide is a good coach and has a long and bright future ahead of him."

Aide's decision to leave may have something to do with how a certain section of fans turned against him, his team and even his family.

After unimpressive performances at the Games - Aide's men beat the Philippines 1-0, lost 1-2 to Myanmar and beat Cambodia 3-1 before the Indonesia loss - a section of fans had called for his head.

His players, especially Sahil Suhaimi, and even his children had been subjected to verbal abuse.

Midfielder Anumanthan Kumar said the feeling in the dressing room was one of collective disbelief when the players were told of Aide's decision.

He said: "We broke down. We don't know what would happen next."

It is understood that Aide was also frustrated after run-ins within the FAS. Sources told The Straits Times that Aide did not have a say on the selection of some of his coaching staff. Goalkeeper coach John Burridge, who had worked with the SEA Games team in the build-up to the tournament, was also strangely missing from the team during the Games.

Yet, Singapore's destiny was in their hands yesterday. Had they beaten Indonesia, they would have made the last four.

After a goalless first half, Aide introduced Irfan and Faris after the break. The dynamic duo were each carrying knocks, but were forced on as half-time substitutes after their side failed to muster a single shot on target in the opening 45 minutes.

Under heavy rain and heavier expectations, the stage was all set. And it promptly collapsed.

Within a minute of the restart, Evan Dimas silenced the 7,000-odd crowd with an exquisite curler from just inside the box. It would signal the end of the road for the Young Lions, who also had Ho Wai Loon sent off for two bookable offences.

But no one expected it would also mean the end of the road for coach Aide.

Trio give Singapore a shot in the arm
They hope gold in men's 50m pistol team can be a spur in 4 events today
By Lim Ching Ying, The Straits Times, 12 Jun 2015

AFTER four days of watching their Singapore team-mates narrowly miss out on golds in eight events at the National Shooting Centre, it was the veteran shooters of the men's 50m pistol team who finally landed the elusive metal yesterday.

Gai Bin, Nigel Lim and Poh Lip Meng - who have been winning as a team since 2009 - regrouped after a third-place finish in Sunday's 10m air pistol competition at Safra Yishun to pip Vietnam to the team gold yesterday.

They scored a combined 1,632 points over 180 shots, beating Sunday's gold-medal winners by six points. Myanmar were third with 1,615 points.

Coincidentally, the Singapore trio also began their fruitful partnership by winning gold in the same event at the 2009 SEA Games in Vientiane, Laos.

"It was exciting, as Vietnam was chasing close behind us, so we were a bit worried," said Poh, who added that the team events have become increasingly competitive over the years.

The pressure mounted towards the end of their qualification round. Both countries' shooters would often take their time to shoot, enticing the unusually raucous audience to break into cheers more frequently.

Even the seasoned Singapore trio - who have taken on the SEA Games, Commonwealth Games and Asian Games together - admitted to feeling the pressure.

Said Lim: "We just performed what we could, (taking it) shot by shot... When the results showed the win, we were very happy."

Individually, however, the team's shooters missed out on the medals. Gai finished an agonising fourth after shooting a 10.7, then a 6.9, while on the brink of elimination. Poh and Lim placed sixth and eighth respectively.

Although all three shooters insisted that they were not affected by the crowd, a couple of abysmal scores - a 5.5 and a 6.4 for Poh, for example - became their undoing.

Still, Poh said: "People are cheering for the team so it's a good spectator sport now."

As a team, they believe that their combined experience would usually put them in medal contention.

"I think we know that we are behind each other," said Lim, who dedicated his gold to the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's first Prime Minister.

"We (just have to) make sure that everything is going according to what we have trained for, and knowing that together we are stronger, we just stay focused."

With the first gold at the outdoor range scored on the penultimate day of competition, the victorious trio are tipping their fellow shooters to reap more golds in today's six events, insisting: "There's more to come."

A gold could also have come yesterday from the women's 25m pistol team but they missed out by a mere point.

After a technical issue left defending individual champion Nicole Tan to fire her last five shots solo, her team-mates Teh Xiu Hong and Teo Shun Xie watched their final score come just a single point short of winners Thailand (1,737 points).

Teh also made it to the gold medal shoot-off, only to lose 1-7 to Malaysia's Alia Sazana Azahari and settle for silver.

"The competition standard is much higher this year," said Tan.

"We'll have to do a lot more for the next SEA Games. Hopefully, it won't be so close next time."

Yang raises bar with 3.9m leap
Pole vaulter joins women's 4x400m squad in setting new national records
By Isaac Neo, The Straits Times, 12 Jun 2015

AS SINGAPORE pole vaulter Rachel Yang began her run for her second attempt at clearing 3.90m yesterday, the support from a 8,572-strong crowd at the National Stadium steadily grew in volume, willing her to leap to a new national record.

And when she vaulted cleanly over the bar, an eruption of cheers greeted her as she fell onto the mattress, leapt up jubilantly and punched her fists in the air.

The result eclipsed the 33-year-old's previous national record of 3.83m, set at the Malaysian Open in March.

It was also good enough for a silver, Singapore's first-ever women's pole vault medal.

Thailand's defending champion Chayanisa Chomchuendee cleared 4.10m for the gold while Riezel Buenaventura of the Philippines was third with 3.65m.

Yang said: "This is the first time I've won a medal in three SEA Games. I really need to thank the home crowd for their support.

"I came in very nervous and was quite scared... but I told myself I need to build on the confidence of the last few months, so I had to throw away all the negative thoughts and just focus on the jump."

However, she was "a bit disappointed" with not being able to hit the 4m mark, failing in all three attempts yesterday.

"I was a bit overwhelmed today so I need to go back and review what happened," she said.

"I want to break the 4m mark within the next few months."

Yesterday's athletics competition saw the rewriting of another national record - for the women's 4x400m.

The Singapore team, represented by Shanti Pereira, Dipna Lim-Prasad, Goh Chui Ling and T. Piriyah, clocked 3min 40.58sec in the final.

While they only finished fourth, they shattered the 41-year-old national record that was set by Glory Barnabas, Maimoon Azian, Lee Tai Jong and Chee Swee Lee at the Asian Games in Teheran in 1974.

Vietnam took the gold in a new Games record of 3:31.46, finishing ahead of Thailand (3:36.82) and Malaysia (3:39.10).

Anchor runner Pereira had almost caught up with the Malaysian runner at the halfway mark of the final lap but the gap was ultimately too much for her to make up.

The four runners were overcome with emotion at breaking the record, squealing with excitement after the race.

Lim-Prasad added: "We've been gunning for it for a long time. We found out when my husband, Seng Song, shouted across the stands that we broke it, and we just started screaming.

"It was quite an emotional moment because we've been gunning for it for at least two years, so breaking it is a milestone for us."

She also said that she felt the team could go even faster and eclipse their own record: "We have a young team, and we've been improving non-stop, so hopefully we can do so."

Shanti, who had won the gold in the 200m on Wednesday, was not bothered about missing out on a medal this time. She said: "I still feel great because we still broke the national record, which is what we wanted to do."

Lim-Prasad, who bagged a silver in the 400m hurdles on Wednesday, echoed her thoughts.

She said: "The medal is a bonus, the record is the most meaningful thing to us.

"If we had gotten a medal but no record, it wouldn't have been as meaningful."

Singapore shuttlers give Thailand a fright before bowing out in S-finals
By Clara Chong And Nigel Choo, The Straits Times, 12 Jun 2015

IT COULD have been a magnificent night for the Singapore men's badminton team, claiming the scalp of regional powerhouses Thailand in the team competition.

Instead, the hosts' challenge fizzled out at the Singapore Indoor Stadium as they eventually lost 2-3 in the semi-final last night.

Yet, the tie began promisingly, as last year's Commonwealth silver medallist Derek Wong smashed his way to a 21-18, 21-19 win over defending men's singles champion Tanongsak Saemsomboonsuk in 31 minutes.

Wong's victory came after a loss to the Thai at the Malaysia Open Grand Prix Gold quarter-finals in January.

He said: "Today, my attack was quite successful, I was speedier than him and that was how I managed to get the points."

However, the Republic's shuttlers failed to pile on the pressure, as N. Puangpuapech and Bodin Issara pulled a point back for Thailand when they defeated Chayut Triyachart and Danny Bawa Chrisnanta 21-11, 22-20 in the first doubles tie.

The Thais then took the lead after veteran Boonsak Ponsana claimed a hard-fought win over Loh Kean Yew 17-21, 21-18, 21-10 in the second singles.

Loh revealed: "I became too relaxed. I tried to make a comeback in the third set but then I just couldn't focus."

Down 1-2, the Singapore shuttlers battled on, and Terry Hee and Hendra Wijaya defeated Sudket Prapakamol and Pakkawat Vilailak 21-19, 21-16 to lift the hopes of the home supporters.

"We found our chance and went for the shots. We were fearless even though we were down two matches, the support was strong," Hee said.

All hopes were then pinned on 17-year-old debutant Ryan Ng to clinch the last match. However, his rival Suppanyu Avihingsanon proved too strong and he succumbed 14-21, 11-21.

A disconsolate Ng said after his defeat: "I felt that I really let my country down."

Singapore will have to settle for bronze, together with their female compatriots, who lost 0-3 to the Thais earlier yesterday.

The Thai men will face Indonesia in today's final, after the latter fended off Malaysia 3-2, despite the presence of former world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei in the Malaysian ranks.

Lee, returning to the badminton scene after an eight-month ban for doping, won his second singles tie against Firman Abdul Kholik 21-19, 21-10 but Malaysia lost the second doubles and third singles tie to cede the semi-final.

Said Lee: "Because I am not playing alone, the responsibility is heavier. I wanted to win every point for the team."

Bowlers rebound in style
After performing poorly in doubles, S'pore women finish 1-2 in trios
By Jonathan Wong, The Straits Times, 12 Jun 2015

ONE of the undeniable beauties of sport is the presentation of second chances to correct mistakes.

For some, it could take a four-year Olympic cycle or longer to right past wrongs. For those more fortunate, like bowlers Cherie Tan, Bernice Lim and Shayna Ng, the opportunity to make amends arrived within 24 hours.

They, and the rest of Singapore's women bowlers, had bowled poorly in Wednesday's doubles event, but rebounded in yesterday's trios to finish first and second.

The threesome of Tan, Lim and Ng led from start to finish in the six-game, six-hour competition and combined for 3,963 pinfalls.

They finished a massive 256 pins ahead of compatriots Daphne Tan, New Hui Fen and Jazreel Tan, while Marie Alexis Sy, Maria Arles and Lara Posadas of the Philippines were third with a score of 3,608.

It was a statement of intent delivered by the Republic to their SEA Games rivals, particularly after the setback on Wednesday when all three pairings struggled with the oiling patterns and several of them posted scores lower than 160.

All six local women made alterations to their bowling balls before returning to the Orchid Country Club and this resulted in vast improvements to their scores.

None of them averaged below 203 pinfalls yesterday while Cherie, Lim and Ng were the only team among 11 competing trios to record combined scores of over 600 for each of the six games.

Said Lim, who earned her maiden Games medal: "After what happened yesterday, it was important that we fought back and won today."

Added 2012 World Cup winner Ng: "Maybe we were a bit complacent after the singles on Tuesday (Singapore filled five of the top-six positions) but we definitely learnt from that experience."

Having reasserted their authority over arch-rivals Malaysia, who won the women's doubles title but only managed fourth and ninth in the trios, the Singaporeans remain confident of retaining their team title today and the masters crown on Sunday.

Said Cherie, who won three golds but also suffered narrow defeats in the doubles and trios events at the 2011 Games: "It was a big result for us in the trios and hopefully we can get into a good lead tomorrow and build on it."

Momentum is another vital ingredient in sport and there is plenty of it within the men's camp after their third medal of the biennial Games.

Singles bronze medallist Javier Tan and surprise doubles champions Howard and Keith Saw notched 3,656 pinfalls for an unexpected trios silver. They were only 45 pins shy of victors Rafiq Ismail, Ahmad Muaz and Timmy Tan of Malaysia.

Said Javier: "It proves the gold wasn't a fluke, that we can do it repeatedly and tomorrow in the team event we can definitely fight for more medals again."

Singapore and Malaysia have split the six golds so far, each with three. The hosts have also bagged three silvers and a bronze against Malaysia's three bronzes in the race to be the region's top bowling nation.

Gold No. 9 for Schooling
Schooling is fast becoming S'pore's prized performer
By Rohit Brijnath, The Straits Times, 12 Jun 2015

THE audience has left, the pool deck is quiet, the water is unmoving, the champion is still. No rap music in his ears, no goggles across his eyes, no Games record beckoning him. It's late, close to 10pm on Wednesday, and he's sitting on a bench, a tuned but overworked machine that's temporarily switched off. For these few, rare minutes, Joseph Schooling is not performing.

Hi, Joseph. Go, Joseph. Well done, Joseph.

Everywhere he's gone for five days, people want something from him: A smile, a photo, a handshake, a gold medal, a urine sample. He doesn't let himself down because he won't let them down. Toss him an autograph book from the stands, he'll bend, exhausted after a race, and sign. Toss him into the pool and his talent sings. Yesterday, his ninth gold confirmed that Schooling isn't just a swimmer, he is a racer.

Imprinted in the memory is not just the colour of medal, or how many, but how he won. By going fast. He didn't always need to, he could have cruised occasionally and won, but he went fast. Every night, almost every race, as if testing the physical boundaries of his determined youth.

Schooling won the 200m IM by a body length and 100m freestyle by the same margin in the year's 15th fastest time. He took the 200m butterfly by more than a second in the eighth-fastest time by anyone this year and ruled the terse 50m freestyle by .61 of a second. It is a gulf best appreciated by the fact that the gap between second and third was only .03.

Schooling at speed was a sight not just compelling but necessary. For many Singaporeans, his velocity through water was just clips of film from foreign shores, but now it is a truth before their eyes. You heard tales that he's this kid training in America. Doing what? Now you see. You read that he's lucky his national service was deferred. What for? Now you know. Because he's fast and it only comes from labour.

The adoring crowd made Schooling go fast and yet he went fast to make a "statement" to his crowd. He wasn't here to "just swim 90 per cent and out-touch people". Oh no. He wanted to "wreck" the field, to "tell people I am not overhyped, I'm not just a poster boy".

Fast, of course, is relative for these are only the SEA Games and the world is not quite trembling. But fast, day after day, requires discipline; fast demands that athletes dig deep and push through the curtains of fatigue. And if Schooling didn't always reach his best - he set six Games records and had four personal bests - he was always trying his best. As he said, "I was close to 100 per cent, effort-wise" and it is an attitude his Texas coach Eddie Reese approves of. "He didn't just go to win, he made the effort. And it's real hard to swim fast when your competition may not be as high."

Fast is Schooling's art, it's his goal, it burnishes his confidence. If he flies, it sends him up the world rankings. If he's brisk every day it's solid practice, for at August's World Championships, among a flintier field, he'll need to be fast in the heats, the semis, the finals. It is also discovery, for he's never done nine events, never interrogated his body so ruthlessly, and now says: "I think I am fitter and stronger."

But Schooling knows there's no such thing as fast enough, no clock at his age - he turns 20 next week - that can't be beaten, no easing of the pressure. Ask him the hardest part of the Games and he'll tell you it was "not losing". Expected to win, he couldn't afford to lose. Victory was gratifying but defeat would be news.

He'll be just 21 at Rio's Olympics next year, and 25 and stronger at Tokyo 2020, and till he gets there every meet is a Schooling education. This one told him his dives were "too high and too deep" but if he launches awkwardly at least he propels himself fast: In six individual events, thrice he had the fastest reaction time and twice the second-fastest.

His technique will get honed, his body heftier, but the athlete's engine is ambition, that cockiness, that bloody-minded desire, that insistence that sweat can turn dreams into truth. Schooling has this belief and it is boyishly advertised in ink on his shoulder.

It's a tattoo that comes with a history lesson on the Texan Revolution. Ask and he'll recite a complex 1835 tale about a cannon given by the Mexicans to Texan settlers who refused to give it back and then hoisted a flag saying: "Come and take it."

These words have the sound of a challenge, which is why Schooling had them inscribed on him. With the defiance that coats the young athlete, he said: "I'm not going to give anyone anything." He's partially right. He didn't give anyone a single gold, but he did give everyone a week of pleasure. He was fabulous because he was fast. And yet to stay cherished he simply has to go faster.

2015 swim squad a class apart
Besides stars like Schooling and Tao, team effort reels in record 23 golds
By Chua Siang Yee, The Straits Times, 12 Jun 2015

AFTER six days of racing, the Class of 2015 staked their claim as the greatest SEA Games swim team of all time in the best possible way - by winning an all-time high of 23 golds.

With that, Joseph Schooling and Co eclipsed the record of 21 golds, achieved on home soil at the 1973 South-east Asian Peninsular Games.

The joy in the air was palpable, and best typified by Tao Li's win in the 100m butterfly, which gave the team gold No. 22.

After outsprinting her competitors to make it five golds in five events, Tao clenched her fists and slapped the water repeatedly, the same way her team-mates pounded the 21-gold mark into oblivion.

Said Tao: "After I touched the wall, I felt a release. I proved myself that I'm still there and I'm still butterfly (champion) and nobody can touch me in South-east Asia. The timing was not important, I just have to win the gold."

Ex-national swimmer Patricia Chan, who was in the stands, said the medal count spoke for itself.

Said Chan, who was part of the 1973 vintage team: "History rewritten. Medal haul beyond expectation. Amazing final night, and I'm very proud of all our swimmers who made this Games unforgettable. I'm honoured to have witnessed and been a part of it."

Besides Tao's win, Amanda Lim also added a gold in the 50m freestyle, touching home in a Games record time of 25.59sec.

Quah Zheng Wen completed a sweep of all backstroke events, winning the 50m backstroke in a Games and national record of 25.27.

He then led off the men's 4x100m medley relay team, also featuring Lionel Khoo, Joseph Schooling and Clement Lim, to a new national and Games mark of 3min 38.25sec.

The swimming competition also saw Schooling cement his status as the region's swim king as he made it two successive perfect meets.

The University of Texas student had six golds from six races in 2013, but upped the ante this year with a perfect nine wins in nine. Said Schooling: "It's one of my most tiring meets. I'm happy to have reached my target, and I can finally sleep soundly tonight."

Amid the euphoria, national coach Sergio Lopez was a picture of calm in the mixed zone, as he watched his charges indulge autograph hunters.

The 46-year-old, who was appointed in January, said there was more to come from Singapore's swimmers.

He said: "This is a good generation, and we were the best team of the meet. We've taken a big step forward, but we can't say our job is done. We have a lot of good kids coming up, and our next assignment starts from next week, to prepare for the junior worlds in August."

On his history-making team-mates, Schooling said: "I think we just have a lot of talent. The results speak for themselves. We're better than previous teams and I think that's a really good step for Singapore swimming.

"It's also got to do with coaching and training methods. Bringing Sergio was one of the best moves or best move Singapore swimming has done."

The swimmers were unequivocal about the reason behind their landmark achievement - an unbreakable bond forged over the past few months.

Said Tao: "The team spirit is really, really good. It's the best we have. I've been to so many SEA Games, there's none like this."

Quah Ting Wen, who has four golds from 10 events, said: "I think that's the way for us to succeed, to have everyone on the same page and same goal, almost like one mind together."

Silver lining for Singapore boxing
Team's unprecedented medal haul to become a catalyst for further success
By Low Jay Sen, The Straits Times, 11 Jun 2015

THE Philippines continued to dominate the regional boxing scene, while traditional powerhouses Thailand remain strong, with famous names such as last year's Asian Games champion Wuttichai Masuk winning golds at the SEA Games.

But other neighbouring nations are slowly but surely punching above their weights to take a slice of the medal pie in the sport.

Hosts Singapore, who have won only a handful of bronzes since 1993, found two young pugilists - Mohamed Hanurdeen Hamid and Tay Jia Wei - who each broke through to secure silvers at the Singapore Expo Hall 1 yesterday.

Both tried hard to earn the Republic a first boxing gold since 1985, but found themselves facing top Filipino boxers in their respective finals.

Nevertheless, the two-silver, four-bronze showing was their best effort since 1993, even though both Hanurdeen and Tay felt they could have done more.

Against 20-year-old Ian Clark Bautista in the men's flyweight final, Hanurdeen was hampered by a large bruise below his left eye after a clash of heads in his semi-final bout.

While the 21-year-old managed to thwart Bautista's attempts to go for the bruise, he was unable to attack, having to fight essentially with only one eye open.

The eventual loss by split decision stung, as a teary Hanurdeen said: "I've sacrificed so much, words can't describe how much, just to get to this final. I didn't want the silver, only gold."

Added national coach Syed Kadir: "If (Hanurdeen) had been fighting at 100 per cent, without the injury, he would have taken the gold."

Tay was knocked out in the welterweight final by 2011 world junior champion Eumir Felix Marcial. The Filipino's physical edge told when a straight right punch landed squarely on Tay's jaw to send him crashing to the canvas.

The 19-year-old Singaporean was displeased with his performance in front of a raucous home crowd.

"I really wanted the win so badly, I'm disappointed with myself." he said.

"I've only fought 19 fights so far, so my lack of ring experience compared to (Marcial) was the difference in the end."

Despite the losses, Singapore's co-chef de mission Nicholas Fang is optimistic about the sport's growth in the future.

He said: "We have to bear in mind there are world-class boxers in South-east Asia. For us to be duking it out for the medals is an achievement already.

"Hopefully, this showing can be a catalyst for the local boxing scene to build on."

If there is a country Singapore can try and emulate, it is Vietnam, who clinched three well-deserved golds yesterday.

Their fighters' tenacity caught the eye, in particular women's bantamweight boxer Le Thi Bang.

The unfancied 23-year-old had beaten the 2013 SEA Games gold medallist Peamwilai Laopeam of Thailand in the quarter-finals, and she stormed to gold yesterday by edging out 2013 Games silver medallist Nesthy Petecio of the Philippines by split decision.

"I am very happy to have won. Our techniques and tactics are equally good, but I was patient and took my chances," she said.

They will be looking to eventually challenge the Philippines' supremacy, although the Filipinos continue to rule the roost in South-east Asia, snaring five golds and three silvers.

As their head coach Patricio Gaspi said: "Our boxers are ripe, they have good exposure, good training. They are ready."

Yong finds a second wind to fend off Thai windsurfer
By Ho Si Rui, The Straits Times, 11 Jun 2015

SHE saw her comfortable seven-point lead after five races evaporate when her long-time rival won the next four races.

No wonder ahead of the final race in the windsurfing RS:X competition yesterday, Audrey Yong was particularly nervous as she braced herself for a duel for gold with Thailand's Siripon Kaewduang-Ngam.

The 20-year-old eventually turned to her sports psychologist right before the race to help battle her jitters.

Said the 2010 Youth Olympics bronze medallist: "I was under a lot of pressure, mostly from myself. But (my psychologist) told me to stay calm and do what I've been doing the past few days and everything will just fall in place."

And that was exactly what happened when Yong won a thrilling final race to secure Singapore's first windsurfing gold since 1989, when the late Kelly Chan won the Sailboard I title. She also became the Republic's first woman windsurfing gold medallist.

A jubilant Yong said: "It's been such a long time since Singapore has won a gold in windsurfing and I'm really proud to do it on home ground."

As soon as the race started, the two contenders were neck and neck, with Siripon leading before Yong caught up, eliciting excited cries from the crowd viewing from the shore near the National Sailing Centre.

With the finish line in sight, Siripon threatened to overtake again but Yong held her nerve to cross first to clinch the gold on 13 points to Siripon's 16.

Indonesia's Horiyah was third on 33 points.

This win marks the Singapore Polytechnic student's first over the Thai after losing to Siripon on multiple occasions, such as the 2010 Youth Olympics and last year's Asian Games.

Said a relieved Yong: "I've been racing with her since the YOG. I've played second fiddle to her in a lot of Asian races.

"So I'm really pumped up to win it this time."

Although Yong was raring to go before her race, her coach Sakda Sakulfaeng was careful not to let his charge get ahead of herself.

The former coach of the Thai sailing team said: "Today, she kept telling herself, 'I can win', but I tried to calm her down because I didn't want her to be affected by the pressure of being on home ground."

In the men's RS:X competition, Singapore earned a silver through Leonard Ong.

Although he managed to win his race yesterday, he was unable to overtake the overall leader, Thailand's Natthaphong Phonoppharat.

Nevertheless, he said: "It was a nerve-wracking race but I'm quite happy because there have been ups and downs this whole regatta and I think we did well."

Singapore Sailing president Ben Tan dedicated the two medals to Chan, the former windsurfing world champion.

He wrote in his Facebook page: "Singapore windsurfing is back! Not since the heydays of the late Kelly Chan... has our windsurfers done so well and hold our own against SEA windsurfing kingpins Thailand.

"Kelly, Singapore Sailing dedicates this SEA Games 2015 men's silver and women's gold to you!"

Ho signs off in style with double
She ends Games career with first individual gold and another in relay
By Chua Siang Yee, The Straits Times, 11 Jun 2015

THE look on Roanne Ho's face after she won the 50m breaststroke, gleefully slapping the water as she gazed mouth agape at the scoreboard, was one of sheer ecstasy.

And really, who can hold it against her?

Having signalled her intentions to retire after these SEA Games, Ho made sure she signed off in style as she won two golds in two races - both in meet and national record times, no less.

Her first gold came in her pet event, the 50m breaststroke, as she clocked 31.45sec, more than a second ahead of Malaysia's Phee Jing En (32.46). Phee's colleague Erika Kong was third in 32.58.

It was also Ho's first-ever individual gold at the Games.

The 22-year-old then ended the night with another gold - this time in the 4x100m medley relay.

Together with Tao Li, Quah Ting Wen and Amanda Lim, the quartet clocked a Games and national record time of 4min 8.72sec.

Said Ho: "All good things come to an end, and I'm happy with the end result. It's better to end on a high, and I'm glad the two golds happened.

"This is definitely the best night of my career."

Ho thanked her father for persuading her to return to the sport in 2013 after she stopped swimming in 2009 to focus on her studies.

Said Ho: "Most parents would want their children to start working after they graduate from university. But my father told me to give these SEA Games a shot because I have my whole life to work. He really supported me."

While these are her last SEA Games, she might still swim at the world championships in August as she met the 50m breaststroke "A" mark. She will decide after discussing with national coach Sergio Lopez.

Also finishing the night with two golds was team-mate Joseph Schooling, who made it eight wins in eight races.

Cheered on by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who had arrived midway through the meet, the 19-year-old won the 200m individual medley in a Games record time of 2:00.66.

It added to his triumph in the 50m fly earlier, also in a Games mark of 23.49. The University of Texas student is on track for a perfect nine golds and will take to the pool in his last event, the 4x100m medley relay, today.

Said Schooling: "I've exceeded my expectations, performance- wise, so that's always a good thing.

"There's no pressure and I'm excited to finish this tomorrow."

After five days of swimming, Singapore lead the table with 19 golds. With one day of competition left, they have surpassed the record 17-gold haul in the SEA Games era, achieved at the 2011 edition in Indonesia.

Lopez's charges are also two shy of the all-time high of 21 golds, harvested on home ground at the 1973 South-east Asian Peninsular Games, the precursor to the SEA Games.

And they could yet surpass that mark.

Of the seven golds on offer today, the hosts stand a gold-medal chance in four events - the women's 50m free and 100m fly, and men's 50m backstroke and 4x100m medley.

National assistant coach Gary Tan was again mum on medal targets but said: "We were quietly confident of the swimmers' ability to deliver, and they are on track to hitting our target.

"But what's heartening to see is that all the swimmers have pulled their weight and contributed. The mood is high, and it's important we continue moving forward on the last day."

Bowling brothers came, saw and conquered
Howard and Keith are the first to win doubles title at Games since 1997
By Jonathan Wong, The Straits Times, 11 Jun 2015

THEY could barely speak at the end, their throats hoarse from repeated shouts of encouragement to each other and emotionally spent after a tense conclusion to the bowling men's doubles event.

Tied on 2,219 pinfalls with Indonesian duo Billy Islam and former Asian Games champion Ryan Lalisang before the deciding sixth game, everything was on the line for brothers Howard and Keith Saw.

An avalanche of strikes, explosive high-fives and deafening roars from the crowd later, the Singaporeans had combined to score 434 pinfalls for a 2,653 total to pip their rivals by a mere 25.

Malaysia's Johnathan Chan and Timmy Tan took bronze with a score of 2,574.

It capped a stunning result for the local siblings, who had never won a major international title before yesterday.

They became the first Singaporean male keglers to be crowned SEA Games champions since 2007. And also the first local men's doubles pair to triumph at the biennial Games since 1997.

"This is the culmination of three years of training and having won it with my brother makes it even more special," said Howard, who is 20 months older at 22.

The heavy piece of metal around their necks was also a weighty chunk of validation.

After all, in recent years it was the Republic's women's team, boasting world and Asian champions, who had been lavished with praise and attention while the men were seen as a work in progress.

Said Keith: "We've been in the shadows of the girls for a while so it's nice to show that we can compete at a high level like them as well. We want to be as good, no, better than them."

The fact that their victory also came just hours after Singapore's heavily-fancied women's team failed to finish on the podium in their doubles category was not lost on national coach Remy Ong.

He said: "I'm always being asked about the men and when is it their time to deliver medals for us. They proved their worth today and handled the pressure.

"I'm very proud of them. There are still more events to come and they mustn't be complacent but this was a big result for our men."

What made the achievement even more remarkable was that this was the first time that the siblings, who had picked up the sport 11 years ago, were competing as partners in the doubles category.

A combination of their age difference - which sometimes meant they competed in different age-groups - and coaches' preference had kept them apart, until now.

The unexpected gold was Singapore's second title at Orchid Country Club though the onus will once again be on the women to deliver more golds from today.

After cruising on the long oil configuration on Tuesday, they had struggled to adapt to the medium patterns and also blamed a wrong choice of bowling balls.

Malaysia's Esther Cheah and Sin Li Jane had no such difficulty on the lanes, totalling 2,651 pinfalls to win gold.

Compatriots Shalin Zulkifli and Syaidatul Afifah were third (2,524), just behind second-placed Indonesians Sharon Santoso and Tannya Roumimper (2,545).

Despite their difficulties, Singapore's women's team will probably still start as favourites for the remaining trios, team and masters events.

Said Singapore Bowling Federation president Jessie Phua: "We expected the ladies to blaze the lanes but we were caught flat- footed. Lessons were learnt and they will come back stronger and make amends. That's a promise."

Shanti ends S'pore's 42-year wait for sprint gold
Shanti in her blaze of glory
Sprinter's gold medal in 'perfect race' emulates Barnabas' victory in 1973
By May Chen, The Straits Times, 11 Jun 2015

THE raucous spectators quietened gradually into silence as the sprinters took to the starting blocks for the women's 200m race. Anticipation was thick in the air yesterday at the National Stadium.

Perhaps the 11,257-strong crowd felt that Shanti Pereira, 18, was about to make history.

And Singapore's newest sprint queen certainly did, emerging from the bend with a strong lead in what was described by officials later as a "perfect race", clocking 23.60sec to clinch the gold and lower the national record for the second time in a day.

Her arms aloft, her right index finger raised to the skies as she strode across the finish line, it was then that celebrations erupted and tears flowed.

Not since Glory Barnabas at the 1973 edition - when the biennial affair was still called the South-east Asian Peninsular Games - has Singapore tasted success in this event.

Said Shanti, who also won a bronze in the blue-riband 100m sprint the day before: "I'm so crazily happy, I can't describe how I feel right now.

"I definitely wanted a medal but I didn't want to be stressed out over it, because I knew if I were (anxious), I would end up not doing as well."

Qualifying for the final with the second-fastest time of 23.82 - eclipsing her 2014 national mark of 23.99 - the Republic Polytechnic student admitted she had felt intimidated and nervous ahead of her pet event.

While the 100m bronze provided confidence, Shanti was particularly wary of 100m winner Kayla Richardson of the Philippines, who had qualified fastest in the heats with a time of 23.67.

"Seeing how she did (in the 100m) and in the heats today, I knew she was my strongest competitor," said Shanti.

Her coach Margaret Oh, however, had more faith in her charge's abilities.

Said an emotional Oh, still wiping tears of joy from her cheeks: "All along, Shanti has been more confident in the 200m. (I knew) she was in control of this race and she ran perfectly.

"It's been a very tough few months (of training), but I'm very happy that (she) was able to achieve what I wasn't able to do."

Barnabas, who watched the race from the stands, is confident Shanti can go even faster.

She told The Straits Times: "She's got age on her side and plenty of time to go out and perform at even bigger events."

Shanti's win capped a stellar day for Team Singapore in the athletics competition.

Thrower Zhang Guirong delivered a gold in the women's shot put event, the 37-year-old's sixth straight title in this event.

Her distance of 14.60m, while a far cry from her 2005 national record of 18.57m, was good enough to put her ahead of Thailand's Sawitri Thongchao (13.62m) and Areerat Intadis (13.31m).

Said Zhang: "This is my seventh SEA Games but the feeling I had today walking into the stadium is so different from the past.

"I'm getting on in age, but as long as Singapore needs me, I will still be there at the next SEA Games."

Dipna Lim-Prasad got the Republic off to a good start when she took silver in the women's 400m hurdles in 59.24, re-writing her own national record of 59.59 set in May.

She finished behind Vietnam's Nguyen Thi Huyen, who set a Games record of 56.15, and ahead of Thai Wassana Winatho (1:01.69).

It marked a comeback for the 24-year-old, who had struggled with a hamstring and hip injury.

Last night's race, in fact, was just the sixth time she has hurdled in the last 2-1/2 months.

Said Lim-Prasad: "My preparation hasn't been ideal, but I'm just counting my blessings that I was able to finish and get a strong podium finish."

Last night, even with all the events for the day completed, the majority of the spectators continued to linger in the stadium.

They were waiting for the final victory ceremony of the day - when the Majulah Singapura would be played in Shanti's honour.

Having waited 42 years for the National Anthem to be played for a victorious woman sprinter, one hour more clearly did not matter.

Athletes lift when galvanised by fans' sound track
By Rohit Brijnath, The Straits Times, 13 Jun 2015

MICHELLE Sng, as lean and light and supple as a fencing foil, has gone deaf. The high jumper hears nothing, she sees nothing in the stadium except the strip of fibreglass before her. "I tune out. It's just me and the bar." She is 172cm, the bar is set at 181cm. No big deal. As her coach told her long ago: "Before you call yourself a high jumper, you have got to jump over your own height."

It is a feat of significant concentration to not hear anything because the stadium is buzzing and quivering. Two old men behind me, like retired radio commentators, offer a non-stop narration. "Go", they cry; "get up" they yell at jumpers, who seem to listen and fly. "You are only there (over the bar) for a few milliseconds," the great high jumper Stefan Holm told the New York Times, "but on a perfect day, it feels like you could hang there forever."

It's Friday night and track athletes are having a field day. The rain has ceased, the crowd is - by track standards - a flood. In some parts, there's so much red, on seats and on some shirts, that it's like walking through a field of poppies. The empty stadium is a shell, but this one, one-fourth full, has a personality. Stone and glass have come to life and so have athletes.

Love affairs only start when both parties show up; inspiration only occurs when a child sees an idol. And so it has been at the National Stadium where audience and athlete have been caught in a rare and loud embrace.

Dipna Lim-Prasad shakes her slim, smiling head because she is thinking of the sound of this stadium. She's at the mixed zone and her team-mate is still clutching a photograph of the photo finish, the final proof that the Malaysians beat them to bronze in the 4x100m relay: Their time was the same but maybe those ladies had a longer curl of hair.

"We can hear it (the noise) when we're running," said Lim-Prasad. "When we walk in, near the start of the 100m, you can hear them say your name. At the (London) Olympics there were more people in the stadium. But they were not cheering for me."

Here, they were.

In the cruel caste system of Singapore sport, football lives in the penthouse, track in the basement. But at these Games, in a brief advertisement of what a buoyant sporting culture might look like in the future, there has been celebration of runner and jubilation over jumper. And they can sense it.

Ng Chin Hui, his 400m final done, points to his arms and says the "unbelievable" crowd made "my hair stand". This tribe is used to only yelling coaches and supportive family when they compete, but here strangers are calling their name, sometimes more than 10,000 of them. It's been, well, "nerve-racking" to start with, Eliza Ng will tell you.

Washed in sweat, smile carved on her face, PB against her name after her 3,000m steeplechase, she said: "We hardly see a crowd, so this is amazing." She got used to the crowd, then used the crowd, and it's what fellow athletes tell Muhammad Moheden, who ran the 3,000m steeplechase. "They say it helped them."

He grins, they're all grinning, because the athlete is an actor in search of an audience, someone to show off to, someone to demonstrate skill to, someone to provoke their adrenaline.

Hannah Lee, who has just finished hurling her discus to bronze, touches on a pride that the crowd extracts from athletes. "I feel so many people behind me and every throw is not just for myself." To represent their nation they all know, to be appreciated for it they can now feel.

The crowd is Singaporean but it is not only for Singaporeans. They cheer for winners from foreign lands they don't know and for last-place finishers they have never met. They are the antidote to the idiots who booed the Indonesian woman volleyballer and the misguided who heckled the local football team. Here was a spring of enthusiasm - yes, yes, admission was free - that we have to turn into a lasting river.

It was time for Sng to jump over her head. The crowd stilled. She took nine steps on an almost circular path, lifted off one foot, generated hundreds of pounds of force, and took on a flight of elegant invention. The bar didn't shiver, she was over, the bronze was hers. But there was none for the women's 4x100m team.

"That's sport," shrugged Lim-Prasad later. "That's the heartbreak of sport." Then they were gone, but one moment lingered. Of the Singapore foursome, having digested the result, pushing through the volunteers, walking up to the victorious Malaysians and congratulating them. It only confirmed why the crowds had come. For these are athletes worth cheering for.

We bring you some of the gritty and inspiring action as well as heartfelt moments of our Team Singapore athletes at the...
Posted by Team Singapore on Sunday, May 31, 2015

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