Tired canoeists' fire 'not strong'

Tired canoeists' fire 'not strong'
Stephenie Chen (right) and Suzanne Seah paddling their way to gold in the women's K2 200m at Ngalike Dam on Friday - doubling their haul after winning the 500m race the day before.

SINGAPORE'S canoeists bagged their second gold at the SEA Games on Friday through the K2 200m duo of Suzanne Seah and Stephenie Chen.

But after three gruelling days, the team left the Ngalike Dam in quiet disappointment after failing to better their previous two gold, three silver, one bronze showing at the 2011 Games, or hit their target of three golds. Their 2013 campaign ended with a 2-2-2 tally.

However, coach Balazs Babella refused to fault his team, saying that they had given their best. The Hungarian explained that he had expected too much of them throughout the year - which has led to mental fatigue.

Midway through their Games campaign, he noticed that his charges looked tired and that the "fire" they had displayed in previous competitions was missing.

Said the two-time world champion: "It is 100 per cent my fault. I wanted too much and in the end, it was just too much for them.

"It has been a very long year, and we had to perform at every event. Mentally, it was just too much to handle.

"During competitions, I could see the fire they had in previous Games, but this time it's not that strong any more."

The bar was set for his team after a spectacular showing at July's South-east Asian Canoeing Championships in Palembang, Indonesia, where they took seven golds, four silvers and a bronze.

Encouraged by the results, Singapore Canoe Federation vice-president Zason Chian revealed that the team were eyeing three golds in Myanmar.

But with three of the men's events left out this year in the K1 1,000m, K2 1,000m and K2 200m - all of which Singapore were tipped to excel in - the team fell short of the mark.

Said the team's poster girl Geraldine Lee, who was part of yesterday's K4 200m bronze-medal quartet: "This is a competition. Sometimes the results are like this. We gave our best and we gave it everything we got." Along with Stephenie, Annabelle Ng and Sarah Chen, the team were beaten by 0.39 of a second by hosts Myanmar, who timed 37.39 seconds. Thailand were second in 37.68.

At least Seah and Stephenie again lifted the team as they took their second gold in 40.86sec. Myanmar (41.26) and Vietnam (41.76) were second and third.

The duo had won the K2 500m on Thursday.

Said Seah, a Nanyang Technology University undergraduate: "We really wanted to win for the team. This is really for the whole team, for everything we have worked for, all the effort that we have put in. The phrase 'trying our best' doesn't even explain how hard everyone pushed."

Friday's final medal was delivered by Mervyn Toh, who was second in the K1 200m. He lost to Thailand's Kasemsit Borriboonwasin by 0.41sec.

Like the tranquillity of the Ngalike Dam, where currents calmed down yesterday after days of strong winds, Babella and his team remained composed despite their disappointment.

The traditional celebrations at the coach's house back in Singapore will carry on because there are more battles to fight.

Already, they are looking to next year's Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea.

Said the coach: "Things can go two ways from here. Some will break, while others will come out stronger.

"We need to learn from what has happened here. We need to learn from the golds, the silvers, the fourth places, the fifth places. If we can do that, we will come out as winners."

ugenec@sph.com.sg


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