Water Polo: Council eyes Asian glory

Singapore's water polo team celebrate after defeating Indonesia 15-0 at the SEA Games at OCBC Aquatic Centre last year. They won gold, maintaining the Republic's dominance at the biennial event since 1965.
Singapore's water polo team celebrate after defeating Indonesia 15-0 at the SEA Games at OCBC Aquatic Centre last year. They won gold, maintaining the Republic's dominance at the biennial event since 1965.ST FILE PHOTO

Six-man body set up to help S'pore's water polo team succeed beyond SEA level

Singapore may have won every gold medal in the SEA Games men's water polo competition since 1965, but an Asian Games medal has proven far more elusive in the past 30 years.

The last time the Republic won an Asiad water polo medal was in Seoul in 1986, when they finished behind winners China and runners-up South Korea.

Since then, their best showing was a fourth-place finish at the 1990 Beijing Games. At the last Asian Games in Incheon in 2014, the men's team finished fifth behind Kazakhstan, Japan, China, and South Korea.

In a bid to close the gap between Singapore and the top Asian nations, as well as improve the Republic's chances of winning a medal in future Asiads, the Singapore Swimming Association (SSA) has formed a six-member water polo advisory council.

The body - which comprises of former national water polo players Kenneth Kee, 71, Alan Heng, 53, Dominic Soh, 56, Ivan Tan, 47, Jerome Lau, 39, and Yip Ren Kai, 33 - will be tasked to assess how to achieve such success.

POTENTIAL ASIAN GAMES MEDALLISTS

They can be among the best in Asia. They are good, they work hard and they are enthusiastic.

KENNETH KEE, former water polo national captain, believes that Singapore's men's water polo team have what it takes to win a medal at the Asian Games again.

Kee feels that a simple formula of putting in more hours of training will help the team to improve.

Said the captain of the 1978 Asiad bronze-winning team: "We've just got to train harder and develop better skills. We've got to take a closer look at our boys. From what I've seen, they can be among the best in Asia. They are good, they work hard and they are enthusiastic. And right now, we have a bigger base of water polo players than what we had during my time when I was playing.

"We have the potential to improve and we think that it is possible to challenge for a medal at the Asian Games level."

However, another former captain, Eugene Teo, feels that it may not be enough to simply train more, as Singapore's top Asian rivals are filled with full-time professional players.

Said the five-time SEA Games gold medallist: "The biggest difference is we are not training full-time.

"Even though we can train every day, but it's different from a professional team, who live a different lifestyle and they can focus entirely on the sport."

He also believes that the sport has evolved over time, adding: "Last time, players might not have to swim that much. But now, more skills, stamina and mobility are required in the game."

It will be a tough task to bridge the gap between Singapore and the medal-winning Asian nations, but SSA president Lee Kok Choy hopes the formation of the council will help Singapore get a breakthrough.

He said: "While our water polo teams have performed impressively over the years, gaining prominence in the region, we must remain challenged and constantly think of ways to grow our capabilities and strengths."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 15, 2016, with the headline 'Council eyes Asian glory'. Print Edition | Subscribe