SINGAPORE HEROINE / FLOORBALL GOALKEEPER FARIZA BEGUM
Over three periods of 20 minutes, 10 minutes of sudden-death extra-time and five penalties in the shoot-out, she dived, she stood firm, she was quick off her line, and she filled the goal.
Throughout, the crowd at ITE College Central never got a clear look at the face of the woman in the iron mask.
But when Fariza Begum read the movement of Chonnakan Kruarod and made the decisive plunge at the Thai's feet to save the penalty that won Singapore the SEA Games women's floorball gold, she celebrated by hurling her helmet into the air.
At last, the 1,100 spectators could see and acclaim the goalkeeper, who amazingly stopped four out of the five bullets in the sport's version of the Russian roulette as the Republic won 2-1 on penalties after a 3-3 draw.
Fariza, who was mobbed by her team-mates at the end of the final, said: "I have never played in a shoot-out at an international level before.
"But I have been practising (saving penalties) in training, and it was the best I could give.
"I read the opponents' movement, and, when I felt that I had my angles covered, then I would commit myself to the ball."
Much as the jubilant Singapore fans thought the 26-year-old PE teacher at Yuying Secondary School had ice in her veins, Fariza disputed that.
She said: "I will be bluffing if I said I wasn't nervous at all, but I wanted to do it for my team- mates."
Singapore's other outstanding performers against the Thais were 36-year-old veteran Jill Quek, who scored the first penalty in the shoot-out, and youngster Natalia Wee, who rounded the goalkeeper to convert what proved to be the decisive penalty.
The 20-year-old said: "It was definitely pressurising, but as a team we were cheering one another on, and, along with Fariza's saves, it did motivate me."
While Singapore were expected to cruise towards the women's floorball gold, victory was far from straightforward in the final.
The match ended 3-3 in regulation time with Yeo Xuan, Ong Hui Hui and Debbie Poh scoring but Sunaree Thoeng, Thanaporn Tongkham and Thararat Duangporn replying for Thailand.
Despite missing out on the gold, Thailand coach Stefan Dahlgren was delighted with the performance of his side, who were formed just six months ago, and he was particularly proud that his players held Singapore all the way to a shoot-out.
Dahlgren said: "Fariza as a goalkeeper was the best player alongside Jill Quek, so I think that says a lot about how well we have played.
"The Thailand teams have developed very fast, and in two years' time Thailand will be a huge challenger for the SEA Games, and even at the Asia level."
This article was first published on June 15, 2015.
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