52 gold medals and counting for Team Singapore

Team S'pore beat 1993 haul of 50 golds; 70-gold mark within reach

From the waters off Marina Bay, where Singapore's canoeists have been harvesting gold, to the Singapore Sports Hub, where netballers and swimmers have thrilled crowds with their golden feats, the nation's finest have had their sights on the larger goal.

And at the halfway mark of the 28th SEA Games, the mission to become the most successful Singapore contingent has been accomplished.

At 7.53pm yesterday, when swimmer Quah Zheng Wen touched the wall at the OCBC Aquatic Centre pool to win the men's 400m individual medley and the host's 51st gold medal, it signalled the writing of a new chapter in Singapore sports history. The medal meant that the feats of the Class of 2015 have surpassed the previous best haul of 50 at the 1993 Games, the last time Singapore played host.

"I'm definitely really proud to have the honour of being part of, and making, Singapore's history," said Quah, 18.

And with seven days left, and more golds expected in shooting, bowling, water polo, sailing and swimming, there is a very real chance Team Singapore could hit 70 golds by the time the Games come to a close next Tuesday. As of last night, the tally stands at 52 golds, thanks to the men's 4x100m swimming team.

The speed with which the golds have come even surprised Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong.

"We were not expecting to get it so early. We thought we might perhaps get it towards the end of the Games," he told reporters on the sidelines of the final day of the canoeing competition yesterday.

He said the athletes have performed "way above expectations" and cited home support as a factor. "The fan support has been tremendous... I think that gives added motivation to our athletes and I hope that will continue through the rest of the Games," he added.

The gold rush began three days before the Games officially opened last Friday, when table tennis players Zhou Yihan and Lin Ye won the women's doubles, the first gold medal of the Games, to lead the medal standings.

The top spot has not been relinquished since, although with Thailand (38 golds) and Vietnam (33 golds) not far behind, the host could be overtaken once the athletics events get into full swing.

With a bumper contingent of 749 athletes, Team Singapore's chef de mission Tan Eng Liang believes the 60-gold mark is very much achievable: "The pressure was that we had our 50th anniversary and the minimum was to hit this target.

"Our ability to go beyond the 50 bodes well for Singapore sport. We hope we can leave a legacy of sports, sports culture and wanting to do your best for Singapore.

"The message was very simple to the whole Singapore team from Day One: Do your level best for yourself, your parents, your club but, most of all, for Singapore. That message should carry on, although we've already achieved this 50-gold medal mark."

ngxtc@sph.com.sg

siangyee@sph.com.sg

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