Shuttlecocks darted from end to end as Toa Payoh Sports Hall was transformed into a badminton jungle yesterday afternoon.
Supporters from six different schools filled the air with chants and cheers for their favourites at the National Schools A Division badminton finals.
River Valley High School (RVHS) made history as they lifted their first girls' A Division crown, beating Hwa Chong Institution (HCI) 4-1.
Favourites RVHS came out off the blocks quickly, taking the first singles through Lee Shu En 21-12, 21-13 and following it up with doubles via Sandy Chua and Jessica Boediman 21-13, 21-12.
Despite being 2-0 down, HCI refused to roll over.
A nervous first set by RVHS's Zhang Yuran allowed HCI's Crystal Kwok to claim it 21-18.
But Yuran found her groove and won the second set 21-7.
In the deciding rubber, Crystal began to pull away with her powerful smashes.
With the volume from the HCI supporters reaching its peak, she found herself 15-9 up, and went on to win six of the next eight points, closing out the upset 21-11. It was not enough to deny RVHS, though.
Their second doubles pair of Yu Yi and Sherilyn Chew sealed victory with a 21-16, 21-18 win over HCI's Shernice Sim and Tan Si Jia, with captain Susan Guo bagging the dead rubber for an emphatic finish.
"We fought really hard for this championship. For a few of us it's our last year at RV and we didn't want to leave the school with any regrets," said Susan, 20.
With the table of trophies and a poster of national badminton player, Derek Wong, on one side of the hall serving as a backdrop, all eyes shifted to the boys' final.
Powerhouses Raffles Institution (RI) and Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) were on stage, with the latter on the hunt for a hat-trick of titles.
After comfortable wins by ACS (I)'s Dominic Soh (21-16, 21-10) and the pair of Alistaire Chua and Sng Ming Wei (21-8, 21-8), RI fought back with Eng Chin An (21-8, 21-3) and the Li Zheng Xi and Jackie Tan (21-19, 21-19) partnership levelling the scores to raise the tension further.
As the school's supporters held up signs that read "3peat", the pressure was on Ronald Yeo of ACS (I), who took on RI captain and cousin, Daryl Ng, in a nail-biting finale. Daryl took the first set easily 21-11.
The second set was a much closer affair as the cousins traded points.
Daryl was on the brink of sealing victory for RI, only for Ronald to save three match points and take the second set 24-22 in a dramatic game.
In the deciding set, Daryl, a former national junior team player, pulled out the stops to win 21-14, and send the RI supporters wild.
"Last year, I expected to win my match but lost, so this time, I just kept believing... The main issue wasn't winning but whether we trained hard as a team, and we did," said Daryl, 18.
RI coaches Robin Gonansa and Aman Santosa were pleased with the boys' attitude.
Gonansa said: "At training yesterday, they were so fired up... It was a tough game because ACS(I) have good players, so everything was 50-50, but they all played very well today."
This article was first published on May 21, 2015.
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