SEA Games 2017

SEA Games: Perfect balance key to double happiness for Singapore squash team

Mao Shihui and Sherilyn Yang on the way to a comfortable straight-games win over their Philippine opponents in jumbo doubles.
Mao Shihui and Sherilyn Yang on the way to a comfortable straight-games win over their Philippine opponents in jumbo doubles.PHOTO: SPORTS SINGAPORE

Rhamanan jumbo doubles champion with new partner; women also win

Just three months after the 2015 SEA Games on home soil where he and Marcus Phua had won Singapore's first gold in squash since 1995, Vivian Rhamanan was on the search for a new partner.

When Samuel Kang answered the call to replace Phua, who could not confirm his participation at the next Games, the new pair - both back-court players - had a tough decision to make - who plays where on the court.

However, fast forward to the men's jumbo doubles final at the 29th SEA Games, it was not a problem any more, as they were crowned regional champions at the Raintree Club after beating Indonesia's Ade Furkon and Agung Wilant 2-0 (11-3, 11-3).

"It's been a lot of pressure to defend the gold medal. I'm proud to have won this gold medal with Samuel. He's someone I look up to and he's a dedicated member of the squash team," said Rhamanan.

"This is the highlight of our partnership, of all the years that we've worked together."

In the final, it was Rhamanan who played at the front.

It was a decision made at the President's Cup in February last year, when the 31-year-old played in front of Kang, 26.

Since then, it is how the duo set up on the court.

While it was a hard decision for the pair, Rhamanan acknowledged that the formation helped them retain Singapore's title.

He said: "We figured that Samuel is good at the back, I'm good at the front. He's super steady and strong whereas I'm aggressive and attacking.

"It paid off in the final where we were able to push the Indonesians to the limit where they couldn't exploit our weaknesses."

It was double delight for Singapore as the women's team of Mao Shihui and Sherilyn Yang took top spot after defeating Jemyca Aribado and Yvonne Dalida of the Philippines 2-0 (11-5, 11-8) in the final.

Mao, who took six months of unpaid leave from her job as a management consultant, said: "I'm very happy for myself and Sherilyn. We sacrificed so much to train and play in the SEA Games and we weren't sure how we would pan out."

More importantly, Singapore's first double-gold haul in the sport since the 1995 Chiang Mai Games is a positive step for the local squash scene, according to Woffles Wu, president of the Singapore Squash Rackets Association.

The sport is enjoying a bit of a revival as yesterday's success harks back to the glory years of Mah Li Lian, Zainal Abidin and Peter Hill in the 1980s and early 1990s.

He said: "I'm over the moon, but this is hopefully just the beginning. We're setting our sights on far bigger things.

"We're looking at the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games. With this result, hopefully we can go back to the SNOC (Singapore National Olympic Council) to use it as a platform to show how far we've come."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 25, 2017, with the headline 'Perfect balance key to double happiness'. Print Edition | Subscribe