All in for Team S'pore

All in for Team S'pore
Minister Lawrence Wong (centre) poses for a photo with former national bowler Grace Young (left) and Jazreel Tan.

When Team Singapore gun for glory at the SEA Games this June, that "team" must comprise more than just the 600-odd athletes expected to form the competition contingent.

The support system behind them must even extend to beyond coaches and officials, and include the everyday athlete and average Singaporean.

This message was driven home yesterday at the Istana, when President Tony Tan Keng Yam hosted a reception for local sportsmen and sportswomen involved in the major Games last year.

More than 300 athletes and officials - who took part in the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Asian Games and Asian Para Games in Incheon, as well as the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing - were invited. Representatives from the 36 national sports associations involved in the SEA Games this year also attended the reception.

Former national bowler Grace Young, who shared the stage with kegler Jazreel Tan to give their thoughts on the legacy of the Team Singapore spirit, reminded the athletes that their roles go beyond simply winning medals.

Said the three-time Sportswoman of the Year: "With the privilege of hindsight as an athlete, my perspective has changed. Apart from bringing glory to the country... athletes have a second and more subtle role of reflecting the development and progress of our nation."

She noted that athletes have a duty to include and embrace all Singaporeans, but the people of Singapore must also reciprocate and rally behind the contingent as part of one Team Singapore.

Said the 52-year-old, who won a bowling gold in the women's doubles with Adelene Wee at the 1993 SEA Games, the last time Singapore hosted the Games: "In this Jubilee year, there is an importance to involve the entire nation.

"The better our fellow Singaporeans understand our sport, the more they will appreciate the importance of our roles as athletes. All of us have opportunities to contribute to this (Team Singapore) legacy."

Singapore will be hosting the 28th edition of the Games from June 5-16. More than 7,000 athletes and officials will compete across 402 events, with the Republic's athletes hoping to break the record 50 gold medals won in 1993.

Said Nicholas Fang, one of the two chefs de mission for the Games: "Everybody is focused on the results we're going to achieve. We definitely want to do better."

He added that athletes from Singapore's strong suits such as swimming, bowling and table tennis are well aware of the expectations pinned on them.

"They're all very clear that there's an expectation to deliver. It's not something that's new to them," he said.

"I hope they don't feel pressure about delivering at home, but understand that support is going to be multiplied many times because the entire country is going to be behind them."

Said Tan, the most bemedalled athlete at last year's Asiad with a gold, two silvers and a bronze: "We hope for something really good, but we can only continue to train hard, and turn those expectations, bring that energy into something positive to help us along."

This article was first published on Feb 15, 2015.
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