Thais are the ones to watch

Thais are the ones to watch
Singapore windsurfer Audrey Yong (left) competing in the SIM Singapore Open Windsurfing Championships, where she won a silver in the women's RS:X event on 25 January 2015.

SINGAPORE - Singapore will likely have to topple regional powerhouse Thailand in order to win their first windsurfing SEA Games gold in more than two decades.

The Thais proved they will be the ones to beat in June when they claimed both the men's and women's titles in the RS:X at the SIM Singapore Open Windsurfing Championships yesterday.

Phattharadanai Chinain captured the men's crown, ahead of compatriot Natthaphong Phonnoppharat and Singapore's Leonard Ong, who staged a late surge to snatch the bronze.

Siripon Kaenduangngam beat home hope Audrey Yong to the women's gold in the waters off the National Sailing Centre at the East Coast.

Several South-east Asian nations, including Indonesia, Myanmar and the Philippines, also took part in the regatta as part of the lead- up to June's SEA Games.

Sakda Sakulfaeng, Singapore's national windsurfing coach, said: "This was a good chance for us to see how the other countries are doing, and use it as part of our preparations for the SEA Games.

"The Thais are quite strong and they are the front runners for now. We'll need to focus a lot on fitness and technique in the months ahead."

Yong, 20, is optimistic despite being well aware of how strong the Thais are. The Youth Olympic Games (YOG) bronze medallist finished nine points beyond Siripon, who was the YOG champion in 2010.

The Singaporean, who was competing in just her second regatta after taking six weeks off following a fracture in her right foot, said: "I'll need to sail a lot more, and get stronger physically."

Singapore's last windsurfing gold came through the late Kelly Chan, who won the raceboard event at the 1989 Kuala Lumpur edition.

"The pressure and expectations will come as we get closer to the Games, but I don't think that it'll be extra pressure because I want to win too," added Yong.

Both Yong and Ong will likely be the ones flying the Republic's flag in June, after emerging tops over two internal selection trials.

They still have to be endorsed by a selection panel set up by SingaporeSailing, before the federation submits the names to the Singapore National Olympic Council for approval.

The regatta also served as the Asian Championships for the RS:One class.

Hong Kong's 2014 Asian Games champion (Mistral) Cheng Kwok Fai took the men's event with a perfect score of 10 points over 10 races, finishing ahead of China's Zhang Zhichao and team-mate Lee Chun Ting.

In the women's RS:One event, China's Li Xiaoyan bagged the gold, ahead of Hong Kong's Ngai Wai Yan and Ma Kwan Ching.

This article was first published on January 26, 2015.
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