Asian Games: Tuned in, turned on and let loose

Asian Games: Tuned in, turned on and let loose
Hassan Sunny (in yellow) clears the ball against the Omanis in the Group C match between Singapore and Oman at Ansan Wa Stadium, Incheon, South Korea on 17 September 2014. Singapore drew 3-3 to Oman.

SINGAPORE - In the bowels of the Munhak Park Tae-hwan Aquatics Centre, in a corner surrounded by massage tables, sat a swimmer, seemingly out of place.

It was a facility that bore his name, but South Korea's swimming superstar was huddled in a room annexed by the Singapore team - presumably hiding.

Park won six medals, celebrated his 25th birthday on swimming's final day of competition at this Asian Games, but felt it necessary to apologise to his country.

"I don't feel good to have disappointed (people)… I think I faltered mentally," he said.

"After all, it is happening in a venue named after me."

Park couldn't tune out the pressure, he couldn't turn on the same magic that saw him strike gold at the last two Asiads, as well as the 2008 Olympics - and hiding in that room, he couldn't let loose.

In Incheon, it seemed that all that went wrong for Park - the hosts' biggest sporting icon going in the Games - was exactly what Singapore will celebrate, after the 223-strong contingent returned home with five golds, six silvers and 13 bronze medals.


Speaking candidly after securing gold in sailing's open match racing, Team Red Dot skipper Maximilian Soh confessed that he was worried going into the final.

The Singapore team had lost only once in 19 previous outings in Incheon, but they felt they would stumble against the hosts and fail to live up to their pre-Games ranking as No. 1 in Asia.

But Soh and his crew turned it on, delivering gold in the waters west of Incheon city, as did Joseph Schooling in the pool, in the 100m butterfly.

It takes grit to stand tall even when weighed down by the burden of expectation, but Schooling sliced through water in 51.76 seconds, with 32 barren years worth of it on his back.

He became the first Singaporean man since Ang Peng Siong in 1982 to win an Asian Games gold.

If Schooling coolly turned it on, Tao Li pulled off the same, with swag.

Her silver (50m butterfly) and bronze (100m fly) were as good a response as any to those who said the 24-year-old was past it.

And then there were those who had to dig deep.

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