Champions in 2012, the judokas at St Gabriel's Secondary School (SGSS) endured a poor defence of their Schools National Judo Team Championships B Division title, failing to even advance beyond the first round last year.
Yesterday, at Hougang Secondary School, they made amends, beating defending champions Raffles Institution (RI) 3-2 to regain their title in front of 250-odd spectators.
Despite losing the opening bout, SGSS won the next two before RI's Benjamin Fong was disqualified for committing four fouls in the fourth bout, thereby giving SGSS the decisive third point for the team victory.
Said winning captain Ryan Tay, 15: "We were very disappointed with our performances last year, as we were overconfident and did not train as hard, so this year we really wanted to make up for it.
"Beating (top contenders) Hwa Chong Institution (HCI) in the elimination round also gave us the confidence boost that we could go all the way."
Coach Gerard Lim said changes were made to the team's training.
"We were able to establish a partnership to train with Nanyang Junior College's judo team, and this exposed our boys to different fighting styles which provided valuable experience," he noted.
"We are also fortunate to have 2013 SEA Games medallists Gary Chow, Gabriel Yang and Timothy Loh to help train the boys."
Despite the defeat, RI coach Tan Yi was satisfied with his charges' efforts. He said: "As long as we did our best, it is enough. SGSS had shown that they could perform well in recent years and they just wanted it more today."
RI did not leave empty-handed as their A boys' team edged out HCI 3-2 to clinch the title.
Said team captain Henry Neo, 17: "We were honestly not expecting to win since competition was very tough this year.
"I and my team-mates haven't won a title since the C Division title in 2009 so we were motivated to win this last time."
HCI retained their A girls' title and were also triumphant in the C Division boys' final.
Nanyang Girls High School beat defending champions Raffles Girls' to bag the B and C girls' titles.
This article was published on April 3 in The Straits Times.
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