SEA Games: Better than 1993

SEA Games: Better than 1993
YOU’RE APPOINTED: Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong (left) fixing on a collar pin for Dr Tan Eng Liang, who is the co-chef de mission for Team Singapore at the 28th SEA Games here, along with Nicholas Fang.

Like many Team Singapore athletes, Nicholas Fang is also making his home debut, albeit as one of two South-east Asia (SEA) Games chefs de mission along with Dr Tan Eng Liang.

Fang is a former national fencer who is a two-time SEA Games bronze medallist (2005 and 2007) and president of the Singapore Modern Pentathlon Association, but this assignment is his biggest to date.

After yesterday's flag presentation ceremony at OCBC Square, Fang told The New Paper he understands how "exciting and intimidating" the prospect of competing at home could be, especially for some SEA Games debutants, but backed Team Singapore to shine.

"Not many of our athletes have experienced a home Games," said the 39-year-old. "Many of them were not even born. Being on home ground can be quite exciting and a little bit intimidating if you haven't thought about it or prepared yourselves for it.

"But we have sports psychologists from the Singapore Sports Institute, who have been working with athletes to help them visualise what it's going to be like... Prepare them for a positive experience rather than an unexpected surprise.

"So I hope our athletes can ride on home support to achieve better results."

Gymnast Tong Kah Mun, 17, is one of many making her SEA Games debut at home next month.

She told TNP: "I would be lying if I said there was no pressure. I feel that since I'm competing in familiar surroundings, I should do better.

"I will have family and friends supporting me and I don't want to let them down."

Fellow teenager, shooter Martina Veloso, 15, added: "We get the advantage of training at the range because it's the competition venue.

"I just have to focus on my objectives and try not to think about the distractions.

"We talked about the various scenarios with the psychologist: When family and friends go to our competitions, they are not expecting anything from us, but they are there to support us instead."

Fang also urged the athletes not to worry unduly about the number of gold medals, saying: "That's for us as CDMs to worry about.

GAMES TARGETS

"Just focus on preparations and the build-up. Come competition time, focus on the process, the techniques you have been practising for so long, your opponents and your particular competition.

"Worrying about the end result is not going to help us to get the gold medals. What will help us are the focus and the preparations leading up to it. The results will come.

"We have never finished in the top three of the medal tally since it became known as the SEA Games and, with Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam all setting high targets, it's going to be tough for us.

"But we want to do better than 1993 when we won 50 gold medals and finished fourth, and that means we will try our best to surpass both the medal tally and the position."

Dr Tan, 77, has been a CDM at 11 previous major Games, including the 1984 and 2008 Olympic Games. The former national water polo player competed at the 1958 Olympics and was also the CDM the last time the SEA Games was held here in 1993.

While he foresees the likes of Joseph Schooling and Quah Zheng Wen reaping a good haul of golds for swimming, he also noted that Team Singapore's success should not be measured only by the number of golds.

"We came up with funds in the last six months, to push some NSAs that are unlikely to win you a medal... so that they can perform credibly," said Dr Tan.

"Volleyball for example, all we expect of them is not to be last. Go and beat one or two countries, come in fourth, and the same goes for some other sports too.

"Do your level best, achieve a personal best in individual timing or team performance, that's our message to them.

"Winning is important but, overall, do yourself, your parents, your school and your country proud."

Fang added: "It is not always victory that inspires. Good performances against tougher opponents, pushing each other to the limit... These will stick in people's minds long after talk about medal tallies.

"We hope these will create a sports culture that is more sustainable and longer lasting."

davidlee@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on MAY 13, 2015.
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