S'porean is best speaker in global debating contest

S'porean is best speaker in global debating contest
The World Universities Debating Championship was held in main campus of the Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM), located in Shah Alam, Selangor, a 20 minute drive from the capital Kuala Lumpur.

SINGAPORE - A Singaporean has been crowned best speaker at one of the world's most prestigious debating tournaments.

Mr Ashish Xiangyi Kumar, 22, a master's student in law at Britain's Cambridge University, beat more than 700 competitors to clinch the title at the World Universities Debating Championship 2015 in Kuala Lumpur last week.

The event pitted two-man teams against one another over seven days.

Mr Kumar is the fourth Singaporean to receive the award since the tournament was first held in 1981.

The other Singaporean winners were Ms Chitra Jenardhanan in 1995, Dr Tan Wu Meng in 2003 and Mr Li Shengwu in 2010.

The Best Speaker prize goes to the participant with the highest number of individual speaker points accumulated over nine preliminary rounds.

Mr Kumar's team partner, Briton Michael Dunn Goekjian, came in second. The pair had done well during the preliminary rounds, losing only one round, but were later knocked out in the quarter-finals.

A team from the University of Sydney Union were the outright winners. Singapore's universities sent 10 teams, including one from Yale-NUS. Only one team, from the National University of Singapore, made it past the preliminary rounds and finished in 22nd place.

For each round, teams were given 15 minutes to discuss a motion before the debate started.

The pair, who represented Cambridge, were "quite relaxed" about the tournament, though they prepared for it by taking part in preparatory competitions in Britain.

"We did readings and would chat about current affairs over dinner," Mr Kumar added.

He got involved in debates when he was 14 and studying at Raffles Institution.

In 2011, he was part of a five-member team from Singapore that clinched the World Schools Debating Championships - the first Asian team to do so.

He was also in the team that took top honours at the European Universities Debating Championships in 2013.

His advice for aspiring debaters is: "Don't take it so seriously and try to make as many friends as possible, because you'll get to meet many different people from all around the world."

This article was first published on January 6, 2015.
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