The Bishan Sports Hall has enjoyed huge crowds for the gymnastics programme at this SEA Games, and there were plenty of cheering and screaming fans on the final day of competition yesterday.
Malaysia, the darlings of the Games' rhythmic gymnastics competition, were favourites for the two golds on offer, the individual all-around event and the group all-around contest. Singapore's fans, though, were hoping for an upset, and were ready to rouse their favourites to gatecrash the Malaysian party.
And in the group all-around event, the Singapore girls delivered.
The team of Dawne Chua, Noelle Goh, Edlyn Ho, Ann Sim and Alison Tang did superbly in the five ribbons and six clubs and two hoops routine to storm to gold, ahead of Malaysia.
The victory was especially sweet for Singapore, as the hosts have never won a SEA Games medal in rhythmic gymnastics before.
"Rhythmic gymnastics hasn't received as much attention from the public as artistic gymnastics has," said captain Ann. "But I think this will be a turning point."
Ann, an accountancy student at Singapore Polytechnic, deferred her studies for a year to train for the SEA Games.
With the gold medal hanging around her neck, the 20-year-old said the sacrifice has paid off.
"The past few months have been really tough and we've faced many difficulties and injuries during training. But after today, everything has become worthwhile," Ann said.
"We plan to improve even more and bring rhythmic gymnastics to further heights."
In the two-part final, the hosts secured an early lead when they scored 14.35 points for the five ribbons routine, leaving favourites Malaysia in second place with 12.85 points and Thailand further adrift on 9.50 points.
Singapore followed up their stunning first performance with another strong showing in the second part of the final, scoring 13.35 points for the six clubs and two hoops routine. Their combined score from both routines was 27.70 points, which clinched them the gold medal.
Malaysia scored higher for the second routine with 14.55 points, but it was not enough for them to overtake the hosts. They finished in second spot with a score of 27.40 points. Thailand, with 22.15, did not earn a medal as there were only three competing countries in the event.
Malaysia's team manager, Petrina Low, admitted that they had not anticipated Singapore's excellent result.
"We did not expect Singapore to do so well for the group exercise, because our routines are very strong," she said. "But our girls made many mistakes today in the first routine with the ribbons, which are very difficult to work with.
NO ROOM FOR ERROR
"We had already told the girls - no mistakes.
"But if they do make them, what can we do?
"Singapore's routines were very simple, choreography-wise.
"(But) I've been watching their training, and they really rose to the occasion today. They deserve the gold."
Yesterday's gold brings Singapore's medal haul in gymnastics up to a total of one gold, three silvers and four bronzes.
It is a tally that has met expectations, said vice-president of Singapore Gymnastics, Lee Hong Chuang.
"It's a good ending to the whole competition," he said.
"It's good to see that our gymnasts have improved and that we're moving forward as a sport.
"At the end of the year, we will send our gymnasts to the world championships, where they will hopefully be able to qualify for the Olympics in 2016."
This article was first published on June 15, 2015.
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