YANGON - After a hiatus from the sport for 12 years, Phone Kyaw Moe Myint and Sithu Moe Myint, known as the "golden brothers" of sailing, yesterday claimed the gold medal in the half rater (open) class during the sailing competition of the 27th SEA Games, hosted at Ngwe Saung Beach in Myanmar.
"With Sithu Moe Myint, 31, at the helm and Phone Kyaw Moe Myint, 28, as the crew, the two brothers have achieved yet another significant triumph for sailing in Myanmar. The achievement is indeed a special one, given that the pair has not competed in the last five editions of the SEA Games," the Myanmar Yachting Federation (MYF) said in a statement after their victory.
The pair has once again entered their names into the history books after more than a decade. They first struck gold at the 21st SEA Games, held in Malaysia in 2001, when the Myanmar sailing team clinched a historic three gold medals. There they won their first gold medal for Myanmar in the under-19 age group International 420 class (boys) event. Phone Kyaw Moe Myint, then aged 16, was at the helm while Sithu Moe Myint, then aged 19, was on the crew.
"I'm not dying to win. You just can't have that approach when it comes to sailing. My only goal is to race to the best of my ability. In sailing, it's about making the least mistakes, not the end result," Sithu Moe Myint said in an earlier interview.
Sithu Moe Myint started sailing when he was eight years old. In 1989, when his father started the Myanmar Optimist Programme, a class of boats for sailors 15 years old and younger, there were four optimist boats and he was one of the sailors.
He retired from sailing a couple of years back, but as soon as he heard that the SEA Games were to be hosted by Myanmar, he decided to compete and started training again.
"I could only dream of competing in the SEA Games in my home country. I never thought it would happen in my lifetime," he said. On winning the gold medal, he said, "I believe I am very competitive and I want to be the best at everything I do. For all the young athletes out there, I would tell them to keep dreaming because nothing is impossible. It's only by pursuing your dreams that you can make them come true."
His younger brother, Phone Kyaw Moe Myint, started sailing when he was 10 years old. He also mentioned the importance of sailing for the host country.
"It's not just having the home advantage of knowing the home grounds, but you have your family and friends here to support you, too. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," he said.
"When I started training, my goal was to go for the gold, but after one and a half years of training, my goal now is to do my best. The gold will come afterwards," he continued. "Sailing is a sport where you win by making the least mistakes. It's about sailing that perfect track, not about taking down your opponent."
He mentioned that he trained frequently at the beach for one-and-a-half years. During the rainy season, they only trained in Yangon. When the weather was good, they trained in Ngwe Saung, which does not have proper harbour facilities.
Phone Kyaw Moe Myint also appreciated the role of the coaches, one of whom was two-time Olympic silver medalist Joe Glanfield. "Our coaches have been key to our training. We have coaches from the UK, Australia, Spain, Greece, and Thailand. We've also had international pacing partners to sail against us as part of our training for the SEA Games."
Leaving his message for younger generations, he said, "I would tell the younger sailors to keep motivated and continue trying. Even with all the pressure, at the end of the day, it's just a competition. Just have fun."
On the same day, Thailand clinched the gold medal in the Optimist Team class, with Singapore claiming silver and Malaysia the bronze-a narrow victory over Myanmar. The winning teams will receive their medals during the closing ceremony of the sailing event, which will be held today.
More than 125 sailors from Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines competed for medals in 13 different classes as part of the sailing event at the new Ngwe Saung Yacht Club.
The sport of sailing was first introduced in Myanmar in 1924 when a group of enthusiasts formed the Rangoon Sailing Club (now the Yangon Sailing Club) on the western shores of Inya Lake, north of the city's commercial hub. In 1956, the Burma Yachting Federation (now the MYF) was established.