SINGAPORE- The Singapore water polo team are the kings of ASEAN, having captured the gold at every SEA Games since 1965.
They are also closing the gap on Asia's best - as shown after they finished second in October's Asia Water Polo Cup and fourth at last year's Asia Championships.
Yet, their toughest opponents could be themselves. To that end, the team's preparations for the upcoming SEA Games have been focused on tackling their No. 1 enemy: complacency.
Said team manager Samuel Wong: "Right now, the players are in top form, technically and fitness-wise.
"To prepare them for the SEA Games, our objective was to make them mentally unflappable, so that they can be prepared for whatever hits them on match days."
A team from the Singapore Sports Institute has been working with the players for more than a year focusing on, among other things, the team's decision-making and thought process behind every move during training matches.
Former national players helped out as opponents during training games, which also simulated instances where the referee penalised the Games-bound team unfairly.
The players, who were mostly kept in the dark about the arrangement, responded well, keeping their cool and never letting their emotions boil over.
There is also the challenge of integrating five new faces, such as 17-year-old Sean Ang, who stopped his studies at Anglo-Chinese Junior College last month to train full time for the SEA Games.
Said Ang: "At first, there was a bit of a barrier because of the age gap, but the team were very friendly and supportive.
"Over time, we gelled and I'm confident that, if we stick to our game plan and play our best, we should win."
Wong added: "Silver is not an option. We must win gold, but I also hope to see the team improve on their winning margins in 2011."
The former national player then joked: "If we don't win, we'll probably stay back in Myanmar."
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