SINGAPORE - It started as an optimistic but far from absurd number - 80. Considering that 50 golds was the best Singapore had ever achieved at a SEA Games, 80 seemed like a tall ask.
We arrived at that figure after spending close to a month with many of the 749 Team Singapore athletes. My colleagues at The Straits Times sports desk, including our 16 hardworking interns, felt that the 80-figure was achievable. But it would require some outstanding performances from Singapore's athletes.
But what started out as a fun project for us, soon became a daily obsession. Colleagues would be tallying up the day's golds as well as projecting how many more could be won. There were cheers when the unexpected ones came, like Shanti Pereira's wonderful women's 200m sprint win. But there were groans when what seemed like sure-bets - like the women's table tennis singles - failed.
But once we saw inspired performances like that of the canoeing team (who delivered a fantastic seven golds) and the netball team (who were favourites but still had to battle hard against a spirited Malaysia), we could feel 80 coming.
How apt it was that silat exponent Nur Alfian Juma'en, who defeated a world champion despite of a bleeding foot, should deliver gold No. 80. It epitomised much of the Singapore performances at these Games, of athletes who never gave up, who consistently pushed the envelope to go faster, higher, stronger.
Such performances rubbed off on their teammates, who despite not winning, gold, or even any medal, still managed personal bests like the women's 4x100m relay team, who lost the bronze in a photo finish. All of them deserve credit.
But perhaps the biggest credit should go to the thousands of fans who packed sports venues across the country, cheering not just Singaporeans to great feats, but also athletes from around the region, regardless of nationality. Perhaps these fans in red also deserve a gold.
The road to 80 has been one great journey, and we are just glad to be able to witness it. The best part of it, with two days of competition still to go, is that the journey is far from over.
We're just thankful that while the athletes slog in the arenas, we can sit back and continue to enjoy the ride!