Polo boys go with the flow

Vice-captain Paul Tan, who scored the opening goal, said the Singapore team stepped up a gear when Indonesia put up a spirited fight.
Vice-captain Paul Tan, who scored the opening goal, said the Singapore team stepped up a gear when Indonesia put up a spirited fight.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Men's team keep up the good work of Team S'pore by winning last gold

ON JUNE 2, the first gold medal of these SEA Games went to Singapore when Lin Ye and Zhou Yihan bagged the table tennis women's doubles gold.

Yesterday, it all came full circle when the 402nd and last gold medal of this meet also went to Singapore, as the men's water polo team defeated Indonesia 15-10 in their final round-robin game, capping an extraordinary Games for Singapore with 84 golds.

It was also the team's 26th successive gold since 1965, adding on to a remarkable winning streak and reminding their regional rivals of their supremacy.

As the final whistle went, the capacity crowd at the OCBC Aquatic Centre went wild, with the team dunking coach Lee Sai Meng into the pool in celebration.

Despite the triumph, Lee was not satisfied with his team's performance, calling it "just average", as lapses of concentration allowed Indonesia to score.

He said: "It was only the beginning and towards the end that we started to play better.

"The team may have been a bit excited because their friends and family are here."

Although happy with the win, vice-captain Paul Tan agreed with his coach, saying: "We may have gotten a bit carried away and complacent when we went a few goals up but we showed our supremacy in the end."

Singapore's final gold at the Games proved to be no easy ride.

After the women's team had fallen to a shock 4-5 loss to Thailand on Monday in their deciding game, there were even higher expectations on the men to deliver and extend their golden legacy.

Singapore fired home an early double salvo, courtesy of Tan and Loh Zhi Zhi but, in the second quarter, Indonesia levelled the game briefly at 4-4 to sow seeds of doubt in the minds of the partisan crowd.

Indonesia put up a spirited fight, limiting Singapore to a two-goal lead right up until the end of the third quarter.

At the start of the fourth quarter, the home crowd, perhaps sensing that Singapore were just eight minutes away from the gold, broke out into cheers of "Go, Singapore, go!"

It spurred the team on, who broke away from the tiring Indonesians to score three goals and put some breathing space between them and their opponents.

With just a minute left, goalkeeper Lee Kai Yang made a superb diving save, and gestured for the crowd to rise in volume, which they did.

Team-work was the key to the win as Yip Yang, who scored four goals in yesterday's match to finish as the tournament's top scorer with 18, can attest to.

"It feels great, it's my second SEA Games; in the first, I didn't score a lot so this time I did better," said an overjoyed Yip.

"But it was really a team effort, everybody did their part. If I'm in charge of finishing a shot, I'll finish the shot."

Eugene Teo, who revealed that it would be his last game as captain, said: "I told the team to believe in themselves and in the hard work that we put in... I had full faith in my team."

As Singapore's men continue to assert their dominance in the pool, the question remains: When will their winning streak end?

Lee, who has now got 10 SEA Games gold medals, six as a player and four as a coach, said he hoped to prolong the streak as long as possible.

"Any country that works hard will have a chance to catch up so we can't become complacent, and have to work harder and think of our development," he said.

Teo quipped that he "could not predict the future" but issued a warning to his regional rivals.

The confident veteran said: "They have caught up to where we were in the last two years but we are pulling away from them."

isaacneo@sph.com.sg

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 17, 2015, with the headline 'POLO BOYS GO WITH THE FLOW'. Print Edition | Subscribe