A 'double' on their minds

A 'double' on their minds
SEA Games feature: Interview with national women's rugby team

WHEN

June 6 - 7

WHERE

Choa Chu Kang Stadium (ticketed)

ON OFFER

1 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze medal

MILESTONES

Singapore's women's rugby 7s team won a silver medal in the 2007 South-east Asia (SEA) Games in Korat, Thailand - the last time the sport was featured in the biennial event.

SINGAPORE'S WOMEN'S TEAM

Chloe Besanger, Christabelle Lim, Lee Yi Tian, Wong Yilin, Alvinia Ow Yong, Samantha Teo, Chan Jia Yu, Lim Li Yan, Angelina Liu, Derelyn Chua, Chua Yini, Jeslyn Lim

THE NEW PAPER'S MEDAL PREDICTION:

Kingpins Thailand were champions in both the men and women's events in 2007. But, with the extensive training and preparation put in over the past few months, Singapore's rugby teams have a strong chance of completing an unprecedented double gold.

cnicole@sph.com.sg

While their game is gaining in popularity, they still often generate shock, disbelief and awe whenever they describe themselves as rugby players in the women's national 7s team.

Rugby returns to this year's South-east Asia (SEA) Games with the sevens' format and the Singapore women cannot be happier, because it will be held on home soil next month.

It will be the perfect stage for them to showcase their talent, and once and for all prove to the local audience they are all business.

Singapore's women's 7s team won a silver medal at the 2007 Korat SEA Games - the first time women's rugby featured at the Games - and this year's unit are aiming to go one better.

They are the favourites and, speaking to The New Paper recently, captain Samantha Teo revealed they are aiming for a double, of sorts.

"I think the mindset will slowly start to change, especially with the SEA Games in Singapore this year.

"People will definitely be coming to watch, and they will see that girls can actually play sevens rugby," said Teo (far right).

Like her captain, forward Angelina Liu hopes the Games will serve as a launching pad for women's rugby in Singapore.

She said: "With this opportunity to play in front of a home crowd, I hope more of our younger players will pick up the sport.

"I also hope they look towards playing for Singapore in the future and not just as a hobby."

The SEA Games return to Singapore in 2015 after a 22-year absence and will be held from June 5 to 16.

The men's and women's event will be held over two days - June 6 to 7 - at the Choa Chu Kang Stadium.

The women's pool will feature Thailand, Philippines, Laos, Malaysia and hosts Singapore.

After the round-robin phase, the top two will face off in the final, with the third and fourth-placed teams vying for the bronze.

Liu, who teaches History and Social Studies at East Spring Secondary School, will have more than a few of her students behind her during the Games.

Some have already teased her about her gym routine.

UNAWARE

"They say, 'Teacher sapau (Malay for "muscular") ah'," said Liu, laughing.

"Then they tell one another, 'Be careful or else the teacher will tackle you'."

Wearing a small frame, Liu makes for an unlikely candidate for the sport.

"People don't expect a girl to play rugby," said the 33-year-old.

"I'm also quite petite and slim, so they don't expect me to play rugby."

Teammate Lim Li Yan added: "Most people are unaware that there's a women's contact rugby scene in Singapore, let alone a national team.

"But they are usually impressed when they find out."

The public will definitely be impressed if the women win gold on June 7.

The team have pledged their full commitment to the cause, with the likes of Lim and Liu juggling their full-time jobs on top of training six times a week.

Former national touch rugby captain Alvinia Ow Yong also made the move from touch to sevens rugby last year to focus on the Games.

Ow Yong, 27, is "excited" over the prospect of a home Games.

"It's the first time our friends and family can support us 'live' instead of just reading the news," she said.

"This is the first time we can show Singapore what women's 7s rugby is like."

Dismissing talk of heavy expectation, Ow Yong added: "There's no extra pressure. It's just a normal competition, but with added support from our friends and family."

The Singapore Rugby Union recruited ex-national coach Gene Tong and former national players Wang Shao-Ing and Kristy Teh - all of whom were part of the silver-medal winning squad in 2007 - as head coach, assistant coach and team manager, respectively.

The team have been on training trips to Australia, Hong Kong and China, and captain Teo is confident they are "on track".

She said: "We've had goals for every phase of our training and we've been hitting them, so things are looking great.

"We are definitely aiming for gold, but what's more important is how our team perform throughout the tournament."

The 25-year-old shied away from singling out a potential rival for gold, insisting they would take every match seriously.

"All the teams are good," said Teo.

"Every team we play against will pose a threat in some way."

Ow Yong added: "I think everyone is a rival. But, if we give it our all as a team, we can take anyone on."


This article was first published on May 19, 2015.
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