SINGAPORE - Singapore's national taekwondo athletes have started the year in fine fashion, clinching 12 medals - including a record five golds - at the 18th Asian Cities Gold Cup Taekwondo Championships last weekend in Hong Kong.
Their five-gold, two-silver and five-bronze haul at the Feb 7-9 competition comes despite tightened rules, which allow only national- or state-team athletes to participate in the nine-nation tournament.
Said head coach Wong Liang Ming: "This year's competition was much tougher than before.
"For example, Malaysia sent their SEA Games squad, while the Indonesian team are professionals training full-time."
Despite the stiff competition, Chelsea Ann Sim, the Republic's sole taekwondo medallist at last year's SEA Games, managed a two-gold haul at the championships.
The 18-year-old overcame her Indonesian opponent, Korean Open champion Christina Agung Intan, to win an individual senior poomsae gold.
The SEA Games silver-medallist also paired up with fellow SEA Games athlete Kang Rui Jie to win a second gold in the poomsae senior team event.
Raja Zulfadli, 21, earned Singapore's third senior gold in the under-74kg competition despite nursing injuries.
"This (gold medal) has proved to me that I can do so much and achieve more," he said.
The two remaining golds came from the cadet competition, as 14-year-olds Nigel Tan (Under-63kg) and Sebastian Ng (Under-33kg) emerged victorious in their respective categories.
Despite the strong outing, the national taekwondo athletes will not be resting on their laurels - not with the inaugural World Cadet Championships and Youth Olympic Games coming up later this year, as well as the SEA Games on home soil next year.
Said Wong: "There are no automatic qualifications for these events.
"We want to make sure the national athletes are always at their best."
Rui Jie added: "I think that it's a very good start, as this is the first competition of the year and will boost my confidence for the next tournament."
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