S'pore in wind-win situation

S'pore in wind-win situation

2014 YOUTH OLYMPIC GAMES

All week at the Jinniu Lake, where the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) sailing competition was held, Samantha Yom had been teaching herself to function like a robot.

Race on, switch on.

Race off, switch off.

It was the sailor's own way of keeping her head in the game, after going through three straight days of women's Byte CII race delays due to a lack of wind at the venue, located two hours away from the Youth Olympic village.

Dealing with the unpredictable elements while out on the water has become second nature to her. The long waiting game, however, was something she had to learn to grasp.

"The toughest thing about this regatta was the waiting," she said, shortly after clinching the first of Singapore's two gold medals yesterday.

"It's quite tiring because we just sit around. You're waiting for the wind, (but) you have to try to rest (at the same time).

"Mentally, you have to be very strong. You need to know when to switch on and switch off, stay motivated, and be ready to give your all when there are races."

Coach Fernando Alegre, who joined SingaporeSailing in 2005, said this regatta has been one of the toughest he has led the Republic's sailors to.

"It's been very much a mind game. It's an Olympic Games, which means there's an extra bit of pressure and lake sailing is very complicated in general," said the Peruvian, named Coach of the Year at the 2012 Singapore Sports Awards.

"Winds are shifty and unpredictable. Samantha has less experience in handling pressure at international regattas so it was important to keep her calm."

Once she was on the water, however, the Raffles Girls' School student was no stiff robot as she nimbly controlled her boat to finish first in the 30-strong fleet.

Her consistency over the seven races of the opening series gave her a cushy position in second place before yesterday's final race, 19 points ahead of her closest competitor.

Four points more, however, and she could snatch the gold medal from Dutch sailor Odile van Aanholt's hands.

She said: "Perseverance was really important this time. I was trailing, but I kept fighting. I had a bad race (she posted a 21st place in Race 4) and I was a bit demoralised after that, but I still kept fighting.

"That's what you should always do - fight and keep pushing on."

And so fight she did yesterday, even after the half-way mark when van Aanholt remained poised for gold, but the 16-year-old Dutch could only finish seventh in the last race and lost the title by a single point overall.

After crossing the finish line, Samantha jumped into the water in celebration, while van Aanholt could only reach the shore in tears.

Said Samantha: "I can't control how others race. I can only control how I do my own race. I told myself, whatever it is, to just sail my best and the results will fall into place - and it did."

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