SEA Games: Yong finds a second wind to fend off Thai windsurfer

She saw her comfortable seven-point lead after five races evaporate when her long-time rival won the next four races.

No wonder ahead of the final race in the windsurfing RS:X competition yesterday, Audrey Yong was particularly nervous as she braced herself for a duel for gold with Thailand's Siripon Kaewduang-Ngam.


The 20-year-old eventually turned to her sports psychologist right before the race to help battle her jitters.

Said the 2010 Youth Olympics bronze medallist: "I was under a lot of pressure, mostly from myself. But (my psychologist) told me to stay calm and do what I've been doing the past few days and everything will just fall in place."

And that was exactly what happened when Yong won a thrilling final race to secure Singapore's first windsurfing gold since 1989, when the late Kelly Chan won the Sailboard I title. She also became the Republic's first woman windsurfing gold medallist.

A jubilant Yong said: "It's been such a long time since Singapore has won a gold in windsurfing and I'm really proud to do it on home ground."

As soon as the race started, the two contenders were neck and neck, with Siripon leading before Yong caught up, eliciting excited cries from the crowd viewing from the shore near the National Sailing Centre.

With the finish line in sight, Siripon threatened to overtake again but Yong held her nerve to cross first to clinch the gold on 13 points to Siripon's 16.

Indonesia's Horiyah was third on 33 points.

This win marks the Singapore Polytechnic student's first over the Thai after losing to Siripon on multiple occasions, such as the 2010 Youth Olympics and last year's Asian Games.

Said a relieved Yong: "I've been racing with her since the YOG. I've played second fiddle to her in a lot of Asian races.

"So I'm really pumped up to win it this time."

Although Yong was raring to go before her race, her coach Sakda Sakulfaeng was careful not to let his charge get ahead of herself.

The former coach of the Thai sailing team said: "Today, she kept telling herself, 'I can win', but I tried to calm her down because I didn't want her to be affected by the pressure of being on home ground."

In the men's RS:X competition, Singapore earned a silver through Leonard Ong.

Although he managed to win his race yesterday, he was unable to overtake the overall leader, Thailand's Natthaphong Phonoppharat.

Nevertheless, he said: "It was a nerve-wracking race but I'm quite happy because there have been ups and downs this whole regatta and I think we did well."

SingaporeSailing president Ben Tan dedicated the two medals to Chan, the former windsurfing world champion.

He wrote in his Facebook page: "Singapore windsurfing is back! Not since the heydays of the late Kelly Chan... has our windsurfers done so well and hold our own against SEA windsurfing kingpins Thailand.

"Kelly, SingaporeSailing dedicates this SEA Games 2015 men's silver and women's gold to you!"

This article was first published on June 11, 2015.
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