NANJING - It has taken 78 years, but Singapore are finally Olympic champions.
As Majulah Singapura filled the Jinniu Lake Sailing Venue, not once but twice, in honour of men's and women's Youth Olympic Games (YOG) Byte CII champions Bernie Chin and Samantha Yom yesterday, even the grey skies and heavy showers gave way to warm rays of sunshine.
The 15-year-old sailors became the first Singaporeans to triumph at an Olympic event since Singapore first sent athletes to the 1936 Berlin Games. They join paralympian swimmer Yip Pin Xiu as the only local athletes to have had the National Anthem played in recognition of their victories at an Olympic or Paralympic games.
For historians, the order in which the golds came - Samantha was first by about 10 minutes, at about 11.37am - will be well-documented. Such is the scale of yesterday's achievements. But on a day where even the most veteran of sports officials were moved to tears, it mattered little. Double gold, double the joy for Team Singapore.
Said Samantha, a Raffles Girls' School student: "I was confident that I would be able to do my best, sail like I have been sailing, and remain focused at the same time."
Added Bernie, who studies at Raffles Institution: "This means a lot to me. It makes me feel very proud that I can win a gold medal for Singapore."
As the leader going into yesterday's final race, he had been a favourite for the gold. But holding just a four-point lead over Brazil's Pedro Luiz Marcondes Correa, a win was by no means a guarantee. More so for Samantha, who was in second spot trailing Odile van Aanholt of the Netherlands by four points.
But a strong second-place finish, coupled with Bernie's fifth place to end the regatta, meant twin golds for Singapore.
It brings Singapore's tally in Nanjing to two golds and two silvers. At the inaugural YOG in Singapore in 2010, the Republic won two silvers and five bronzes. Singapore's Summer Olympics haul stands at two silvers and two bronzes, from weightlifting and table tennis at the 1960, 2008 and 2012 games.
The sight of the Singapore flag fluttering in the wind to the melodic tune of the National Anthem was especially poignant for International Olympic Committee member and former national sailor Ng Ser Miang, who presented the medals to the athletes.
Speaking of the joy of hearing the National Anthem play 16 years after he first joined the Olympic circle, the Singaporean said: "It's an amazing feeling. Hearing it not once but twice in the same day is just incredible."
News of the sailors' feats travelled quickly back to Singapore, where many officials also sent their congratulations. Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin, who is also Singapore National Olympic Council president and was in Nanjing last week to support the athletes, said in a Facebook post: "Their win is a testimony of not just their skills but their resilience and fighting spirit."
This article was first published on August 25, 2014.
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