President Tony Tan urges Team S’pore to build on ‘exceptional’ 2016

President Tony Tan urges Team S’pore to build on ‘exceptional’ 2016
President Tony Tan with the netballers during their training session at the OCBC Arena yesterday. The President is confident Team Singapore athletes will do well at the SEA Games in August and do Singapore proud. ‘I am sure we will have a very good result,’ he said. Photo: MCI
Published: 4:00 AM, April 19, 2017

SINGAPORE — The year 2016 was an unforgettable one for Singapore sports, with landmark achievements courtesy of national swimmer Joseph Schooling’s historic Olympic gold in Rio de Janeiro, and a record haul of three medals at the Paralympic Games by swimmers Yip Pin Xiu and Theresa Goh.

Even the younger athletes got in on the act, with Lau Ywen becoming the Republic’s first fencing world champion when the then 16-year-old claimed the world cadet sabre title.

Lauding the Singaporeans for their “tremendous” efforts, President Tony Tan Keng Yam urged Team Singapore to build on that winning momuntum as they head into the 2017 SEA Games and Asean Para Games in Kuala Lumpur in August and September, respectively.

“2016 was an exceptional year for Singapore sports,” said President Tan after a visit to the OCBC Arena yesterday to observe the training sessions of the silat, fencing, netball and volleyball teams.

“I had the chance to talk to our athletes (and) they all are quietly confident and working hard; they know that the competition has increased, so they have to work doubly hard. But from what I’ve seen today, I am confident they will do well in Kuala Lumpur, and will do Singapore proud.”

Aside from sports that traditionally do well at the Games, such as swimming, sailing and table tennis, other sports, such as fencing, will be the ones to watch in Malaysia this time. The Republic’s young fencers have posted impressive results in recent months, with Esther Lai winning Singapore’s first-ever Asian junior gold (girls’ epee), while Amitha Berthier claimed the girls’ foil bronze at the world cadet championships.

While Fencing Singapore president Juliana Seow was coy about targets for the Games — the 2015 edition saw a record haul of three golds — she said yesterday: “Overall, we’ve got a very young, talented batch, which is very good for a country like us.”

Fans can also expect a fierce battle on the netball court between Causeway rivals Singapore and Malaysia, with the hosts — who are also the reigning Asian champions — out for revenge after losing the 2015 final to Singapore.

Singapore head coach Yeo Mee Hong admitted that it will be a challenge going into the lion’s den.

The team has been preparing for a noisy, boisterous crowd by blasting heavy metal music during training sessions.

“Definitely, we would like to go into the SEA Games to win again,” she said. “Malaysia are the Asian champions, whereas we finished third (last year), so hopefully we can step up in terms of play and overall fitness, and put up an ‘A’ game.”

“I am happy (now) because compared to last year, I think our national players have stepped up in terms of intensity and fitness (in the ongoing league), and most of them are playing well.”

President Tan offered words of encouragement to the athletes during his hour-long visit yesterday, and he said: “What is important is the attributes that our athletes show in preparing for these Games, (which) reflect what Singapore is as a people.

“If we keep at it, we can continue to progress and be successful as a country ... All of Singapore will be supporting Team Singapore and I am sure we will have a very good result.”