Gold will ease their pain after 3 near misses

Gold will ease their pain after 3 near misses
It’s the final chance for (from left) Elfi Mustapa, Lee Cheng Wei, Calvin Kang, Gary Yeo and 4x100m relay squad members Naqib Asmin and Amiruddin Jamal to prove their mettle.

Singapore's 4x100m men's athletics relay team have some unfinished business.

It seems almost improbable that the same six men - Calvin Kang, Elfi Mustapa, Gary Yeo, Lee Cheng Wei, Naqib Asmin and Amiruddin Jamal - have contended for the 4x100m gold at the past three editions of the Games, only to fall short by milliseconds every time.

It was second every time in Laos 2009, Indonesia 2011 and Myanmar 2013.

The hat-trick of silvers is a particularly tough pill to swallow and the Singapore team are tired of playing second fiddle.

"We are really hungry to win the gold medal," Kang, 25, said.

Six years of being bridesmaids have steeled each of them with the resolve to stand highest on the podium on home soil.

"The past three SEA Games have been a lot about battling our mental capacity on that day," said Kang. "This year, a lot of us are mentally ready."

For the Singapore sprinters, mental tenacity is just as central to the 4x100m relay as speed and seamless transition.

Rising above nagging self-doubt on race day is key to perfecting their baton technique.

Kang said: "You know that the others are really good. Of course, you have doubts.

"Especially (since) we're running so fast, it (difference between a gold and silver) is only a split second. You miss it, the baton drops, you're gone. I'd say this year we are mentally ready - even if I close my eyes, I know I'm going to pass."

In an event which demands individuality takes a back seat, teamwork must come to the fore.

To win gold, the amount of time taken for the baton to be passed will possibly make or break the Singapore quartet.

Former national coach and sprinter Hamkah Afik said: "As a former national coach coaching them, if they can demonstrate a high relay skill, they will secure the gold for Singapore."

Former national sprinter and 4x100m bronze medallist at the 1993 Games Muhamad Hosni added: "All this while, Thailand have been winning.

"It's never been about ground speed. It's all about baton skill."

Indeed, regional sprint powerhouses Thailand and Indonesia have consistently denied Singapore the gold.

It was Thailand who won by 0.48sec in 2009, followed by Indonesia's photo-finish victory in 2011 before the Thais beat Singapore again two years ago by a heart-breaking 0.04sec.

At May's Taiwan Open, the Singapore team's final competition before the Games, Kang and Co were once again edged out by their Indonesian rivals, this time by 0.24sec. Kang and his team-mates finished fourth, behind Indonesia, Hong Kong and Chinese Taipei.

There, the Singapore sprinters managed 39.71sec - an improvement from their 2013 Games timing of 39.79sec but still shy of their 39.45sec national record set in 2013 at the Asian Grand Prix in Chonburi, Thailand.

The Republic's sprinters will be hoping to carry that form to glory on home soil and end their gold-medal hoodoo.

And one thing is for certain - it is their final shot at redemption for the six sprinters.

Already, Amiruddin, 28, has announced that he will retire after the Games.

Said Hamkah, who trained all six sprinters in 2009: "For the seniors, the 4x100m team - this is their fourth or fifth SEA Games already. I'm not putting pressure on them... but this is the best chance for them to create history.

"Why? Because Singapore is hosting, they have their family, their friends, their supporters."


This article was first published on June 4, 2015.
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