Timor Leste aim to learn and one day host the SEA Games

They are still relatively new to the South-east Asia (SEA) Games, having made their debut in the region's biggest multi-sport event only in 2003, but Timor Leste will be entering the 28th edition here with big dreams.

Apart from gunning for podium finishes in taekwondo and pencak silat, the Timor Leste contingent - comprising 67 athletes and an estimated 30 officials - will also be taking a leaf out of the books of their various regional counterparts, as they plan to one day host their own SEA Games.

Timor Leste's chef de mission Laurentino Guteres believes it will take about 10 to 15 years for Timor Leste to be ready to host a SEA Games.

Speaking on the sidelines of the team's welcome ceremony at the Kallang Wave Mall at the Sports Hub, he said: "Countries like Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia have very good infrastructure... Timor Leste is only 13 years old and we are still far away.

"We would like to host the Games in the coming years, but it will take some time."

Praising facilities like the Sports Hub's OCBC Aquatic Centre, Guteres, 38, hoped Timor Leste would one day emulate the Republic's success in swimming.

"I saw your aquatic centre and it is very good," he said.

"Singapore is very strong at swimming, so we would like to learn something."

Timor Leste won two golds, three silvers and five bronzes at the last SEA Games in Myanmar.

Eight of the 10 medals were won in Shorinji Kempo, but the Japanese martial art will not be contested at this year's Games.

Boxer Elio Jenoveva Edito and taekwondo exponent Luisa Dos Santos Rosa each won a bronze medal two years ago and are in this year's contingent.

While Guteres hopes his athletes will build on their good results from the previous Games, his main objective for them this time is to gain experience.

He said: "We hope to win some medals, but it is also important that we are here as a South-east Asian family to celebrate the SEA Games.

"As a new country, we would also like to see how the other South-east Asian countries are developing their sporting scene, so that we can learn from them and enrich our own sporting scene.

"Singapore is also celebrating her milestone national independence, so it is a great pleasure to be here to witness how you are celebrating this occasion."

Timor Leste aim to learn and one day host the SEA Games.

This article was first published on June 3, 2015.
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