Bowing out with glitter

Bowing out with glitter
Singapore's sailing team celebrating their third gold in Incheon by pushing the victorious J80 crew - (front row, from left) skipper Maximilian Soh, Andrew Paul Chan, Justin Wong, Russell Kan and Christopher Lim - into the water after they beat South Korea 2-0 in the match racing final at Wangsan Sailing Marina. The sport contributed three golds, two silvers and two bronzes to the tally.

INCHEON, South Korea - It is a bitter-sweet moment when a team win gold but look set to be disbanded after the Asiad.

But euphoria reigned more yesterday, when out on the Yellow Sea and under grey skies, Team Red Dot - the name signifying their laser-sharp focus on winning - delivered for Singapore as the Incheon Games' sailing competition concluded.

The J80 crew, cheered on by team-mates who were shouting themselves hoarse 200m away on the breakwater, beat hosts South Korea 2-0 in a best-of-three match racing final at the Wangsan Sailing Marina.

The five-man team, comprising Maximilian Soh, Andrew Paul Chan, Russell Kan, Justin Wong and Christopher Lim, had blazed through qualifying, winning 15 of 16 round-robin matches.

It was a sweet reward for the71/2-week United States training trip, funded with money they had raised themselves.

Yesterday's win looks set to be their last hurrah as Wong is continuing his studies, Kan and Chan are starting national service soon while Lim, who took no-pay leave, is going back to work.

Also in the way is a lack of funding. The five, who had to raise money in July for their US trip, collected $35,000 but had to top that up with $15,000 themselves.

Said 2006 Asiad Laser gold medallist and team skipper Soh: "The Singapore Sailing Federation funding is very limited. It's solely for the Olympics but sailing doesn't end there. We try to be independent and set a path for other kids to follow in the future."

Soh, who has set sights on professional match racing circuits overseas, added: "We're still trying to find sponsors. If we can't get funding, we can't do this any more. We're all using up our savings and this might be the end.

"The aim is still to go on the world match racing tour but, if we don't, at least we have an Asian Games gold to show for it."

Singapore Sailing president Ben Tan praised the team, saying: "It's a team sport, there's an extra difficulty element, you need to gel, have a strategy and I'm proud of them."

On sponsors, he said: "Olympic campaigns tend to have more government funding. But, as an analogy, does the US government fund Tiger Woods? They don't. That's the real professional world.

"For the match racers to survive and thrive in the professional world, they have to follow the same model. It's difficult.

"The corporate sponsorship market for sports is not mature yet (in Singapore).

"So, the challenge is how we can best help them, link them with sponsors and help kick-start that sponsorship market."

The former national sailor, who also has an Asiad gold (Laser), hopes to see more sponsors coming into the sport and is looking to push more sailors to race in competitive circuits overseas.

He said: "It's like in football, when you have players plying their trade in leagues overseas, and then coming back for the national team. We want that same model for sailing."

In all, Singapore's 17-man sailing squad bagged three golds, two silvers and two bronzes in Incheon, and are joint-second in the medal table with China.

Four years ago in Guangzhou, they bagged two golds, two silvers and four bronzes.

Their best showing came at Doha in 2006 when they topped the sailing table with five golds, three silvers and two bronzes.

Said Tan: "We have been monitoring our progress... and I'm happy to say (the results show) that we're on track."

This article was first published on October 2, 2014.
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