Netball gold on their minds

STAR: Goal Attack Charmaine Soh (right) is expected to be in the Singapore team bidding to win gold at next year's SEA Games.

SINGAPORE - Next year's South-east Asia (SEA) Games will be held in Singapore - the first time the country will experience the magic and unique atmosphere of the region's biggest sports event since 1993.

The Republic's netball team know the importance of the occasion, and are on a mission to win gold.

Even with that target in mind, Netball Singapore (NS) wants more countries to participate in the competition next June.

According to NS chief executive officer Cyrus Medora, only four nations in the region have netball teams - Malaysia, Thailand, Brunei and Singapore.

To grow the competition, the national sports association is sending coaches to countries like Vietnam - at NS's expense - to build up their teams.

Netball gold on their minds

Said Medora: "We have already sent coaches to Vietnam and I have been writing regularly to countries like Laos and Cambodia through the SNOC (Singapore National Olympic Council).

"If we can get six or seven countries at the SEA Games next year it would be fantastic because Malaysia are planning to have the sport when they host the Games in 2017.

"Brunei also want netball in when they host in 2019 to involve more girls in sports, so netball is going to be included in three consecutive Games."

Only Appearance

The sport's only appearance at the biennial Games was in 2001 in Kuala Lumpur, with teams from Singapore, Malaysia, Myanmar and Thailand battling for the medals.

The Malaysian women beat Singapore 53-42 in the final to win gold.

In a bid to raise the level of the sport in the region, NS will also invite ASEAN teams to compete in the Mission Foods Asian Netball Championships at the Singapore Sports Hub from Sept 7 to 14.

The year-end invitational Nations Cup will also feature arch-rivals Malaysia, the country tipped to be Singapore's main obstacle for the SEA Games gold next year.

The Asian Championships and 2015 SEA Games will be coach Ruth Aitken's big tests as she works to rebuild the national side, following the retirements of stalwarts like Jean Ng, Premila Hirubalan and Vanessa Lee after the triumphant 2012 Asian Championships campaign.

"Of course Ruth wants to win the gold (at the Asian Champs), but I've told her that top two would be fantastic because it would see us qualify for the World Cup (in 2015 in Australia)," said Medora.

"For the SEA Games we are aiming for gold, and we are very focused on that and have a very good chance."

sayheng@sph.com.sg


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