Game over for Ho's games hopes

Game over for Ho's games hopes
Ho Han Boon (left) believes a lack of sparring partners here may have been a factor in his losses to Wee Pui Seng.

He turned heads with his size, then made headlines with his feat at the 2013 SEA Games, but Singapore judoka Ho Han Boon will not feature at the Games when they are held here from June 5-16.

The 25-year-old, whose gold in Myanmar was Singapore's first in the sport in 24 years, has lost his place in the men's over-100kg class to Wee Pui Seng.

Ho, who tips the scales at about 205kg, was beaten by his team-mate twice over the past six months, in August last year and at a closed internal selection event last month.

Only one athlete may be fielded in each weight class and Ho's appeal to a Singapore Judo Federation selection committee was rejected last Friday.

Wee is about 85kg lighter than Ho, but has far more experience on his side.

Speaking to The Straits Times from Tokyo, where he has been working as a sales executive for a glass manufacturing company for about 21/2 years, Wee said: "I've met Han Boon four times before and beaten him, so this wasn't really unexpected."

Wee, 29, has competed at the 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2009 SEA Games. He won a bronze in the under-100kg class in 2003 in Hanoi and a silver in the same class in 2009 in Vientiane.

He travels almost every other week for work but manages to train about two to three times a week on top of doing his own strength and conditioning.

He does not have a coach at the clubs where he trains in Japan but is planning to come back to Singapore to train with the national team in the lead-up to the Games.

He said: "With the Games being held at home, there will be more eyes on me. It has always been my goal to win a SEA Games gold for Singapore. Now that Han Boon has done it, in a way I feel less pressure to do it."

Stephen Chee, Singapore's team manager for the Games and also Ho's coach, ruled out any chance of his charge trying out another weight class.

He said: "It will be too much weight for him to drop in too short a time.

"As his coach, I had hoped for him to go to the SEA Games, but the selection trials are a process that everyone has to go through. Only the best will represent Singapore.

"He's still young and has more years ahead of him to go to other Games."

Ho said a lack of sparring partners in Singapore could have contributed to his losses to Wee.

"He probably has more sparring partners in Japan but there are very few people whom I can spar with in Singapore," he said.

"I'm okay. Pui Seng has proven to be better than me now and as long as the gold medal stays within Singapore, it's okay."

Singapore is hosting the SEA Games for the first time since 1993.

This article was first published on March 18, 2015.
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