SEA Games are a good platform to prepare for Olympics

SEA Games are a good platform to prepare for Olympics
President Tony Tan Keng Yam will be hosting over 300 guests comprising contingent members of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games, 17th Asian Games Incheon 2014 and 2014 Asian Para Games.

The gulf between the two sporting meets is huge.

But the South-east Asia (SEA) Games, which rolls into town in June, can be a good stepping stone for local athletes who have set their sights on making their mark at next year's Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

At the Istana yesterday, President Tony Tan Keng Yam hosted about 300 members of Team Singapore who competed at last year's Glasgow Commonwealth Games, Nanjing Youth Olympic Games and Incheon Asian Games and Para Games.

And on the sidelines of the event, sports administrators The New Paper spoke to said having a Games on home soil just over a year before the Olympics in August next year can help give local athletes a psychological edge.

Singapore Bowling Federation president Jessie Phua said: "It's a quantum leap from the SEA Games to Rio but, that being said, I think it can be tremendous.

"Because while people talk about homeground advantage at the SEA Games, I think it can also be homeground disadvantage.

"The expectations of our people to be able to bring home the golds, are going to be something that a lot of our athletes have never experienced before.

"Being an athlete is a journey, and one of the toughest things to manage is how mentally strong you are."

SEA Games co-chef de mission Nicholas Fang agreed.

The former national fencer and ex-Nominated Member of Parliament said: "I've been to four SEA Games, and there is actually a higher concentrated level of competition than at a higher level.

"At a world event, for example, there would be over 200 fencers and you could be in the same pool as an Olympic champion.

"Then, you can tell yourself: 'Relax, let's just try to have some fun'.

"But come back to the SEA Games, there are 12 fencers and you start to think, 'Maybe I can win'. But the problem is, all of them can win, too.

"So it's a wonderful platform for our athletes to learn to be mentally tough, resilient, and deal with this kind of very concentrated pressure."

PRESSURE

TNP also spoke to athletes who pointed to the challenge of performing under pressure as the biggest challenge they will have to overcome.

Sailor Colin Cheng was the top Asian at the 2012 London Olympics and has also earned the Republic a berth at next year's Olympics.

The 25-year-old, who is based in Australia, told TNP: "The SEA Games is similar to the Rio Olympics in that it's also a major games.

"I'm looking forward to using the opportunity to hone my ability to perform under pressure, especially on home waters."

Boxer Ridhwan Ahmad, meanwhile, has not put much thought into competing at the Olympics.

But he knows all about Syed Abdul Kadir's exploits in Munich in 1972 - the last time a boxer from the Republic made it onto the biggest stage of sport - and said it would be the "greatest honour" for a sportsman.

"For boxing, the standard at the SEA Games is quite good, because there are some Thai and Filipino boxers who have medalled at the Asian Games," he said.

"I guess at the home SEA Games, the expectation is there.

"Now that there have been a few articles about the SEA Games and boxing, people ask me if I feel pressure.

"But it doesn't affect me, really.

"And I'll treat the matches when they come for what they are, just matches."

Rugby chief Low Teo Ping said the disparity in the level of quality in most sports between the SEA Games and Olympics does not mean there might not be a co-relation between performances at the two meets.

"Look at (top swimmer) Joseph Schooling, for example," said Low.

"For the SEA Games, where his mandate is winning many more medals than he could ever at the Olympics, what is important is confidence-building.

"We expect him to win six golds and, if he does achieve it, it would be very good for his confidence."

But Fang warned: "In sport, anything can happen. You could have an off-day, be injured or sick. So I wouldn't say you have to dominate regionally to prove you can do well internationally.

"People who may not have won a gold at the SEA Games have gone on to medal at the Asian Games, so I don't think one requires the other."

DO THEIR BEST

Phua agreed, and said she made this clear during a team meeting with her bowlers last week.

"I told my athletes I don't want them to go out at the SEA Games to win gold, I want them to go and do their best," she said.

"Show your country and your fellow Singaporeans that they can depend on you. Whether that perfect execution results in a medal does not matter, because you can never control the outcome. All your country asks of you is for you to try your best."

SEA GAMES

While people talk about homeground advantage at the SEA Games, I think it can also be homeground disadvantage... The expectations... are going to be something that a lot of our athletes have never experienced before. - Singapore Bowling Federation president Jessie Phua


This article was first published on February 15, 2015.
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