Job well done but 2015 up ahead

Singapore's Ho Han Boon wins gold in the men's judo +100kg category during the 27th South-east Asian (SEA) Games in Naypyidaw's Zayar Thiri Indoor Stadium, Myanmar on 21 December 2013.

NAYPYIDAW- As the curtain fell on the Myanmar SEA Games yesterday, Singapore will look back and remember the event as one that produced sweet results in unexpected quarters.

Paving the way for the Republic are Mok Ying Ren's first men's marathon gold, Chan Jing Ru's first archery gold in 30 years, Janine Khoo's first equestrian gold since 1995, judoka Ho Han Boon's first gold for his sport in 24 years, Dinah Chan's first gold for a woman cyclist and Saiyidah Aisyah's first gold in rowing since 1997.

The "breakthroughs" have not escaped chef de mission Annabel Pennefather's attention.

In her review of Singapore's performance yesterday, she said: "We have witnessed many breakthroughs in these Games and very pleasant surprise medals.

"We have seen many of those firsts here, from a wider range of sports, and several firsts in many decades and from quite a few young debutants."

She hopes that the athletes' achievements will inspire their respective sports to grow.

Remarkably, a few of the golden stars achieved success despite numerous obstacles and distractions.

For instance, Saiyidah triumphed despite less than ideal support as her association struggles to find consistent funding.

The 25-year-old, who became an instant online heroine after her win, hopes to raise rowing's profile and attract more funding.

Janine, 16, marked a remarkable comeback after being flung off a horse during training only two months ago. She broke her right cheekbone and fractured bones in her right eye socket.

But Singapore's traditional gold mines, such as swimming (11 golds), sailing (five golds) and table tennis (four golds) also did not disappoint.

The nation's 305-strong contingent garnered 34 golds, 29 silvers and 45 bronzes for sixth position in the 11-nation meet.

Thailand were first with 107-94-81 while hosts Myanmar missed out on their 100-gold target with 86-62-85.

As Singapore looks back on a job well done, Pennefather cautioned the athletes not to take their foot off the pedal ahead of the all-important next edition of the Games, when Singapore will play host in 18 months.

In swimming, for example, the Republic's dominance over regional rivals has diminished.

In 2009 and 2011, the swimmers won 44 and 45 per cent of the golds respectively. This year, they claimed only 34 per cent.

Said Pennefather: "It's clear that the other nations are not standing still and they also have young athletes who are coming up.

"It's going to be a big challenge going forward and I think that this has been a very useful gauge.

"I hope that all the national sports associations and athletes take away the lessons learnt, not only only from their victories but also from defeats.

"To review, reassess, how they move forward and to come back stronger and even more competitive when we host the Games in 2015 because that will be another real test for us, on our home ground."

Out of the 25 sports that the nation participated in, only three - golf, chess and wrestling - did not return with a medal.

But with chess returning to the Games since 2003, and wrestling formed only in 2009, Pennefather did not consider them to have under-performed.

Golf, however, was aiming for a medal but missed the putt.

She said: "Golf was expecting slightly better results but even Tiger Woods has a bad day.

"They are youngsters and we hope that they will have learnt from it and put it to use as they move forward."

Another sport that will need to improve is badminton, which scored its worst result in 16 years - dropping from one gold and four bronzes in 2009 in Indonesia to only one bronze in Myanmar.

Said Pennefather: "For badminton, they set their own targets and they know that perhaps they didn't perform here as they did in Jakarta.

"I think, internally, they are doing their own review and I'm sure they will have to take this seriously and see how they can be more competitive."


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