50-gold aim: More must chip in

50-gold aim: More must chip in
Swimmer Joseph Schooling was the most bemedalled Singapore athlete at the 2013 SEA Games in Naypyidaw, with five gold medals and a silver.

They are the golden geese of local sport and the likes of bowling, sailing, shooting, swimming and table tennis are once again expected to do the heavy lifting for Singapore at this year's SEA Games.

Singled out by chef de mission Tan Eng Liang as the country's main source of silverware, the five sports have between them contributed 143 gold medals - or 74 per cent - of the 194 golds that the country has mined from the past five editions of the biennial Games since 2005.

But for the Republic to hit the magical mark of 50 gold medals this time and equal its best showing at the region's biggest sporting competition since 1993, it will require others like athletics, canoeing, fencing and cuesports to chip in and share the load.

Each of these sports is also a potential gold mine, with track and field offering 46 golds up for grabs, canoeing 17, fencing 12 and cuesports 10.

While the national throwers have consistently delivered golds at the SEA Games - Zhang Guirong will be gunning for her fifth straight shot put gold - there is a bubbling sense of optimism among Singapore Athletic Association (SAA) officials that this will be its runners' turn to shine at the National Stadium track come the June 5-16 Games.

SAA president Tang Weng Fei said: "I'm very hopeful of bettering our previous results (of two golds at the 2013 Myanmar Games). We have some very good prospects and the home support will give them that extra push."

He tipped marathoners Mok Ying Ren (the 2013 defending champion) and Soh Rui Yong to shine while 18-year-old Zubin Muncherji, who broke the country's 40-year 400m national record last year, is another potential champion.

Throw in the men's 4x100m relay team, winners of three consecutive SEA Games silvers with almost nothing in the margins between them and the winning Thais, and Tang's optimism is understandable.

Momentum in sport can be a powerful thing and for national epee fencer Lim Wei Wen, there is a groundswell of confidence among him and his team-mates, who returned from last month's Commonwealth Fencing Championships in Glasgow as the top-performing nation with four golds, four silvers and two bronzes.

The Scottish competition featured 300 competitors from 20 countries.

Said the 29-year-old, who won a historic bronze medal at the Asian Games, the first by a Singaporean in the sport: "It would be very special for us if we can do our part to help Singapore hit 50 golds. We did well in Scotland but we're not resting on our laurels and are focused on peaking for the SEA Games."

Ever since Geraldine Lee captured Singapore's maiden canoeing gold medal at the 2011 Games in Indonesia, the sport has been making inroads and the Marina Reservoir could be the scene of another breakthrough moment for the Singapore Canoe Federation.

Said its president Yip Kwan Guan: "We have to step up and get as many of our athletes on the podium as possible.

Dr Tan told me he expects 10 medals from our 17 canoeing events. I'm optimistic of meeting his target, with maybe five of those being gold.

"The main issue is consistency. We have home advantage, which is a huge factor in our sport as our athletes know the conditions very well."

Equally ambitious was three-time billiards world champion and reigning Sportsman of the Year Peter Gilchrist.

He said: "Anything between two and four golds will be great for us collectively. (World junior snooker champion) Aloysius (Yapp) could be the surprise package."

Even sports that do not regularly hog the limelight or feature prominently at the Games are determined to pitch in.

This will be the fourth time since the Games began in 1959 that waterskiing has been included and wakeboarder Sasha Christian, after plundering two golds in the slalom and wakeboarding categories at last November's Asian Beach Games in Phuket, is favourite to repeat that feat.

Said the Singapore Waterski and Wakeboarding Federation's honorary secretary Steven Tan: "We would like to repay Sports Singapore and the Singapore National Olympic Council's faith in us by winning medals for Singapore."

Those two weeks in June represent a chance for all local sports to seize the spotlight, said Sheik Alau'ddin, chief executive of the Singapore Silat Federation.

"Team Singapore must grab this opportunity to shine and deliver at least 50 golds. I think even more than 50 is possible, looking at the talent across the sports," he said.

This article was first published on January 28, 2015.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.

More about

Purchase this article for republication.



Your daily good stuff - AsiaOne stories delivered straight to your inbox
By signing up, you agree to our Privacy policy and Terms and Conditions.