New partners, world champions

New partners, world champions
Singapore sailors Loh Jia Yi (left) and Jonathan Yeo were crowned world champions after winning the boys' 420 event at the Isaf Youth Sailing World Championships in Tavira, Portugal.

Theirs was a new partnership just six months in the making. Their opponents, on the other hand, were some of the world's best - comparatively older and more seasoned in their craft.

But Singapore sailors Loh Jia Yi and Jonathan Yeo were undeterred, focusing instead on tried-and-tested routines as they battled for contention in the boys' 420 event at the July 12-19 International Sailing Federation Youth Sailing World Championships in Tavira, Portugal.

And they emerged victorious among the 32-strong fleet on Friday, finishing ahead of Malaysia's Mohammad Faizal Norizan and Ahmad Syukri Abdul Aziz, and third-placed Japan duo Ibuki Koizumi and Kotaro Matsuo.

The win also gives Jia Yi, 16, the rare accolade of holding two world titles concurrently, after he won the 15-and-under Optimist class world championship almost exactly a year ago.

The Raffles Institution (RI) Year 4 student told The Sunday Times shortly after the win: "It was a really close fight this time. My heart almost popped out so many times in the last race."

Going into the last race, the Singapore duo were tied on points with Japan's Koizumi and Matsuo, with the Malaysian pair three points behind.

Said Jia Yi: "We were definitely nervous but we stuck to our racing routine and it did us well. The main thing was to focus on our own race and not be overly concerned with others."

He had just started training on the 420 from this year, after graduating from the Optimist class.

He said: "This is a step forward for my sailing career... The people who are around me have so much experience, they're all 18 and I'm only 16."

The victory also completes an amazing comeback for Jonathan, who came close to paralysis after a horrific cycling accident 21/2 years ago.

Doctors then had said that the severe trauma to his spine meant the 18-year-old might never sail again.

"I have a lot to be grateful for from this win," said Jonathan, a Year 6 student at RI. "I struggled to regain my physical abilities from scratch, with the help and commitment of many doctors and physiotherapists.

"So being able to be world champion now, I think I'm the happiest man in the world."

Team-mate Ryan Lo also won a bronze in the 57-strong boys' Laser Radial event, making it Singapore's best-ever showing at the annual regatta.

With other sailors posting creditable results such as a fourth-place finish by Kimberly Lim and Savannah Siew in the girls' 420, Singapore was the fifth-best performing nation out of 68 sides, behind Spain, France, Israel and Italy and ahead of traditional powerhouses like Britain and Australia.

maychen@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on July 20, 2014.
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