SINGAPORE - Not even the morning downpour and the blanket of haze could douse the spirit of track and field, as the Singapore Athletics (SA) Inter-Club Championships wrapped up a weekend of action yesterday.
Kallang Practice Track was brought to life with more than 300 athletes from 18 of SA's 21 affiliate members turning up for the 38-event meet.
The competition, making its comeback after an 11-year absence, was hugely popular from the 1970s to the 1990s, due in part to the rivalry among prominent clubs such as Flash, Achilles, Swift and Police.
The 260-seat gallery, located along the home stretch, was filled to capacity, as cheers and applause rang across the compound.
SA president Tang Weng Fei was understandably pleased with the turnout. He said: "We need the vibrancy of the clubs. They help to reduce the attrition rate; many athletes stop training after they finish school.
"This year's timing is not so good, coming after the SEA Games. But I believe next year will be better."
Tang, an oil trader, added that he was disappointed Police did not take part, and said he would be writing to the club's convener.
SA's vice-president (competitions organising) Loh Chan Pew said: "As you can see, the response is very good.
We actually wanted to cancel a couple of events due to the haze on Saturday, but the athletes said they really wanted to compete so we postponed it till this morning, and luckily the conditions were better."
A milestone was also reached yesterday, as for the first time in the sport's history, prize money was doled out - $250 for gold medallists, $150 for runners-up and $100 for those who finished third. The top eight clubs in the overall rankings also received prize money, ranging from $400 to $2,000.
SEA Games discus bronze medallist Hannah Lee, who won a gold in the event yesterday, said the prize money was definitely an incentive.
The 23-year-old added: "This event has the potential to be something great. You see the unity in the clubs when all the members come together.
"It also gives the athletes a greater incentive to train and compete. I took a break after the SEA Games, but this meet has rekindled the fire in me. It makes me want to train harder for the next SEA Games."
Including prize money, Tang said the event cost between $30,000 and $40,000 to run, and that he hopes to secure a title sponsor for next year's event.
He said: "A vibrant club scene will definitely lead to an improvement in the sport, and hopefully an improved showing at the 2017 SEA Games."
The National University of Singapore (NUS) was the top performer over two days of competition, with 235 points. They were awarded the President's Cup, and received $2,000 in prize money.
Nanyang Polytechnic was second with 117 points, ahead of Republic Polytechnic (96).
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