Aiming to end medal drought

SINGAPORE- They may have returned empty-handed from the three previous editions of the SEA Games, but Abdul Halim Kader, president of the Singapore Sepak Takraw Association, is determined to come home with something to show for in Myanmar.

Halim, who is also the secretary general of the sport's international body, has made a brave prediction for his six-man team to claim three medals at Naypyidaw.

He said: "I strongly believe that our team will not fail the people of Singapore.

"We have a strong chance, and we will bring back at least three medals from the Games."

Sepak takraw, a sport which involves kicking around a rattan ball, has traditionally been dominated by regional powerhouse Thailand, which claimed four of the six golds on offer at the previous Games.

Halim believes that Thailand and other neighbouring countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia have always fared better because they employ full-time players, while Singapore's national team comprise part-time players.

But to improve on their showing this time around, the team have increased the number of training sessions from three to four or five times a week, in the past six months.

There are five golds at stake in Myanmar - regu, team regu, doubles, team doubles, and hoop.

Team Singapore are aiming for a podium placing in the doubles, team doubles and hoop events.

At hoop, where players kick the ball into a suspended hoop, Singapore won a silver at the 2005 Asian Indoor Games.

Halim added that the Myanmar-bound squad also boost a good mix of experience and youth.

While team stalwarts such as captain Muhammad Magrib and Muhammad Farhan are still around, there are also up-and-coming talents such as Muhammad A'fif.

The 19-year-old, who graduated from ITE College West this year, will make his SEA Games debut in Myanmar and is regarded by Halim as the team's future.

Said the player: "I want to bring back the medals for Singapore.

"I'm going to play with confidence and our team have enjoyed good bonding and we have a strong fighting spirit."

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