'Uncles' roll back the years to share 1 of 4 sailing titles

The men’s trio of skipper Stanley Chan and crew Anthony Kiong and Colin Ng celebrate after winning the 28th Sea Games' men’s keelboat fleet-racing event on 9 June 2015.

As they steered their keelboat steadily across the finish line to leave their opponents in their wake, the Singapore trio of Stanley Chan, Anthony Kiong and Colin Ng probably heard supporters cheering them on from the breakwater.

But the sailors, who won the SEA Games men's keelboat fleet-racing event yesterday, might not have heard how they were referred to by team-mates and officials - "Ah Chek", or Uncle in Hokkien.

In pipping the Philippines and Indonesia to the title, their gold was one of four won by Singapore's sailors yesterday at the National Sailing Centre.

Indeed, with a sailing squad that includes an 11-year-old, it is not hard to see why they are considered the "uncles" of the team.

But it is not simply age that these uncles, good friends and sailing buddies for more than two decades have overcome to reach the top of the podium.

Kiong, 40, is deaf in his right ear. Ng, 36, was critically ill after being diagnosed with Crohn's Disease in 2008, and continues to manage the incurable bowel condition with medication.

Said Ng, who had about 30cm of his intestines removed: "When I was first diagnosed, I was very depressed. It's nice to feel that high again."

Ng and Kiong are the only athletes who also competed when Singapore last hosted the biennial Games in 1993, winning a gold in the men's 420 event that year.

"The gold is precious, but what's priceless is sailing with a bunch of guys you've known for over 20 years. It's just as sweet," said Ng.

In making their competitive comeback, the men also had to shed quite a few kilos to meet the maximum combined 270kg weight for the SB20 keelboat.

"Anthony and I were both close to 100kg prior to making a comeback," said 37-year-old Chan, who now weighs 73kg.

"We had to drop weight and that was really hard work."

With the trio still to compete in the keelboat match-racing event at Marina Bay, celebrations will be put on hold for now.

Said Ng: "It's been quite a ride, but it's just one of two medals and we'll be looking for the second one."

Singapore's three other golds yesterday came from the men's Laser Standard, men's Under-19 Laser Radial and women's keelboat fleet-racing events.

Such was Laser Standard sailor Colin Cheng's lead going into the medal race that the 25-year-old needed only to finish the final race - which counts for double points - to secure top spot.

Malaysia's Khairulnizam Mohd Afendy, who beat Cheng to the silver medal at the Asian Games last year, was second. Thailand's Keerati Bualong was third.

Cheng, a 2012 Olympian who was making his SEA Games debut, said: "It doesn't matter who I'm racing or what the situation is - I always want to win.

"A small fleet like this poses its own challenges because it's hard to gain points on your competitors.

"But it feels great to have my family and friends here. That was pretty special."

Last year's Youth Olympic Games gold medallist Bernie Chin took the men's Under-19 Laser Radial in commanding fashion.

The women's keelboat team of Jovina Choo, Terena Lam, Dawn Liu and Daniella Ng won their fleet-racing event, beating Malaysia (silver) and Thailand (bronze).


This article was first published on June 10, 2015.
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