SINGAPORE - Succeeding a team that had made a clean sweep of the medals the year before is never easy, but Singapore's young sailors got off to a fine start on Sunday at the Optimist World Championships.
The team of five retained the team title, beating Italy 2-1 in the best-of-three final at the Fraglia Vela Riva in Lake Garda, Italy to ensure a podium finish for the eighth year running. It is the nation's third straight team crown.
The team - made up of 14-year-olds Edward Tan, Koh Yi Kun and Fathin Rasyiqin Mohd Firdaus, and 15-year-olds Loh Jia Yi and Bertha Han - successfully staged a comeback after losing the first match to the home side.
A total of 48 teams - the most number of entries ever in the 47-year history of the regatta - were vying for the team honours.
Singapore first beat Tunisia, Portugal and Slovenia on Saturday to advance to the last 16, then made light work of Uruguay, Brazil, Britain and the United States on Sunday before facing off against the Italians.
While Singapore have traditionally excelled in the Optimist, a class for those aged 15 and under, victory was never a given.
Besides, being without Optimist world champion and Sportsgirl of the Year Yukie Yokoyama, who is now overaged for this class, this was also the first competition of this scale for many on the Singapore side.
Three out of five on the team are competing at their first world championships. Raffles Girls' School student Bertha, in particular, is making a debut in her first International Optimist Dinghy Association event.
The sailors had not returned to shore by press time on Sunday and could not be reached for comment.
Last year, Singapore won the team title, were named the Best Performing Nation and claimed all three podium positions in the individual category - becoming the first country to retain all three titles.
The sailors will enjoy a rest day on Monday before resuming races in the individual category.
Jia Yi leads the 259-strong field after six races and has a six-point advantage over his closest competitor. Edward is in fourth place, followed by Bertha in fifth.
Yi Kun is eighth. Fathin is 21st.
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