Singapore canoeists basking in glory

On the final day of the Asian Canoe Sprint Championships in Palembang in Indonesia, the Singapore team wrapped up their campaign with two more bronze medals to record their best-ever display at the continent's biennial meet.

Mervyn Toh and Stephenie Chen, who are SEA Games champions, both finished third in their kayaking K1 200m finals.

"Our results mark a truly momentous milestone in the development of canoeing in Singapore," said Francis Ng, Singapore Canoe Federation's vice-president (strategic development).

"Coaches Balazs Babella and Wang Chao and their charges have performed splendidly and the results validate their excellent showing at the SEA Games."

In the men's K1 200m nine-boat final, Toh clocked 37.671sec, finishing behind joint-winners Sergii Tokarnytskyi of Kazakhstan and Cho Gwang Hee of South Korea (36.717).

Chen swiftly followed Toh to the podium when she finished in 44.203sec, behind Uzbekistan's Olga Umaralieva (43.146) and China's Li Yue (43.456).

Toh, an engineering undergraduate at the National University of Singapore, said: "I'm very happy. We beat many countries whom we could not have imagined beating.

"The gap to the fastest Asian competitors is getting smaller."

With their twin medals, the 16-man Singapore contingent returned home with a hat-trick of bronzes after five days of competition in the Indonesian city.

On Thursday, debutante Lim Yuan Yin, 23, clinched third spot in the women's C1 500m.

The bronze was a first medal for the Republic at the championships since 2003.

This year's haul of three bronze medals is an improvement from the previous best performance of a solitary bronze in 2003.

Singapore were already crowned kingpins of the region when they collected a record seven-gold haul at the SEA Games on home soil in June. Toh bagged gold in the same class while Chen is the women's K1 500m champion.

And their achievements at the Asian meet further underlined the team's status as the region's best canoeists, and also showed that the team are taking big strides to be among Asia's top paddlers.

The sport is dominated in the region by paddlers from central Asia, China and Japan.

No South-east Asian athlete has won a medal at the competition's past two editions.

Coach Babella is upbeat about Singapore's future in the sport and feels that the team are strong enough to mount a challenge.

The Hungarian said: "This is the best showing ever... for Singapore.

"The results have made us more confident for the next Asian Games in 2018 and we will also target qualification for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games."

This article was first published on November 8, 2015.
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