SEA Games: Of grasshoppers, barbers, and silence

NAYPYIDAW- "I don't like the bugs," said the 17-year-old Republic Polytechnic student.

"There are mosquitoes, grasshoppers, spiders, and flies.

"And some of them are very big!"

She called her coach Yang Ning over, and he whipped out his smartphone and showed a picture of a grasshopper at least 15cm in length, staying in the shade in one of the team's dorms.

It may well have been a good luck charm for Yan Ni, though.

On Sunday, she won the Republic's first silver medal in Naypyidaw, for her changquan routine.

Indeed, other Team Singapore athletes who have already set foot in the sprawling 415-acre (more than 300 football fields) Village seem more than satisfied with their experience so far.

Top shuttler Derek Wong said the living quarters were similar to the facility at the 2007 SEA Games in Korat, Thailand.

"The only difference is that there are six people to a room here, instead of four like in Korat," said the 24-year-old, who is competing in his fourth SEA Games.

"But it's still more than enough space for all of us, and the rooms are pretty clean."

Most of the games' 6,000 athletes will only arrive in Naypyidaw over the next three days, with the official ceremony kicking off tomorrow.

Athletes from sports like football, silat and boxing are putting up in hotels earmarked by the Myanmar organising committee. So, life in the Village is pretty quiet for now.

Wong says there are small minimarts, barber shops and souvenir stands for the athletes to visit during their free time.

And there are nightly performances at a "social zone" where they can mingle with sportsmen and sportswomen from other countries - although a noise ban kicks in at 10pm.

Water polo player Toh Zhi Hong is relishing the experience.

The 23-year-old said: "It's my first time at a major games so it's an eye-opener to see the other athletes who are so dedicated to their own sports.

"Our canoeists, for example, do fitness work on their own time here on top of their normal training sessions, and the wushu exponents practise their routines."

Like Wong, he is also more than satisfied with the living conditions, and says it plays a big part in how well an athlete can prepare for competition.

"Having a good place to rest and good food for your body can only mean you recover from training sessions and matches better," said the Nanyang Technological University undergraduate.

Wong feels athletes must realise why they are at a Games, anyway.

"Whether the facilities are good or bad, as athletes we should adapt," he said.

"The host countries always try their best to make the village a very good place to be, and even their own athletes stay there.

"So we should just focus on performing to our best when we compete and it shouldn't be a big factor."

And what of the bugs in Naypyidaw?

"I'm a bit of a nature guy," he quipped.

"If I walk and I see a cricket on the side of the road, I might pick it up. "Maybe it's more of a problem with the girls."

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