S'pore women upset Iran for Asian C'ship gold

Next up for the newly minted Asian champions is the World Championships in Italy next October, where the Singapore women's canoe polo team hope to improve on their previous best result - a 12th-place finish in 2012.
Next up for the newly minted Asian champions is the World Championships in Italy next October, where the Singapore women's canoe polo team hope to improve on their previous best result - a 12th-place finish in 2012.PHOTO: SINGAPORE CANOE POLO WOMEN'S TEAM

Singapore shone at the recent SEA Games in canoeing and water polo.

Now, the national women's canoe polo team have made a splash too, bagging the Asian Championship on Sunday for the first time.

At the 17th edition of the biennial competition in Hong Kong, they were unbeaten throughout their matches en route to the title, emerging top in a six-nation field.

They defeated Japan (3-2) and Hong Kong (12-0) in the group stage, overcame Chinese Taipei (4-2) in the semi-finals, and upset five-time defending champions Iran 3-1 in the final.

"This achievement shows that our training, commitment and hard work have paid off and it means a lot to us," said player Tan Li Ling, 24.

SUCCESS BUILDS INTEREST

We hope that with this success, which shows that our players can hold their own at regional level, more people will be interested in picking up canoe polo, especially from a younger age.

YIP KWAN GUAN, Singapore Canoe Federation president, on how the canoe polo women's team's success can affect the local scene

She hopes that canoe polo can go on to become - just like fellow aquatic disciplines water polo and swimming - one of the mainstays of glory for Singapore sport.

The non-Olympic sport does not have a wide reach here, being played mainly among polytechnic and university students.

The youngest member of the 10-player squad, mostly comprising former canoeists, is 21.

The oldest is 35.

  • What is canoe polo?

  • Canoe polo is a combination of canoeing and water polo.

    The canoes that are used are lighter and shorter than a conventional one, for easier manoeuvrability.

    Two teams of five players attempt to score using a water polo ball in an area slightly smaller than an Olympic-sized pool.

    The game can be played in a swimming pool or a lake.

    The 20-minute game is divided into two halves, with a three-minute interval.

    The players score by sending the ball into a goal, which is suspended 2m above the water's surface.

    Besides using the paddles, players can also use their hands to pass the ball, similar to the practice in water polo.

    Each player has to wear protective gear such as helmet, vest and face guard.

Singapore had fallen to Iran at the final hurdle thrice (2005, 2009 and 2013) at the biennial meet.

But backed by goals from Lisa Marie Joy Hallmi (two) and Ong Shu-Wen, the Republic finally vanquished their old enemies.

For the first time, the team also benefited from being able to compete overseas using their own paddles and canoes .

Team captain Chad Ong, 35, noted that in the past, "we always had to rent or borrow equipment, which affected our performance due to misfits".

With the Asian crown in the bag, the team have set their sights on next October's World Championships in Italy, which they have qualified for.

There, they hope to improve on their previous best showing in the competition when they finished 12th out of 17 teams at the 2012 edition in Poznan, Poland.

Ong said: "It's like a new beginning for us.

"We're now even more motivated to build on what we have achieved and strive to be among the top eight in the world."

The Under-21 team nearly joined their seniors but eventually lost 1-5 to Iran in the final to settle for a silver medal.

Both the men's senior and U-21 teams finished fourth.

The Singapore Canoe Federation (SCF) is hoping that the newfound success will spark a fresh wave of interest in the sport.

Its president Yip Kwan Guan said: "We hope that with this success, which shows that our players can hold their own at regional level, more people will be interested in picking up canoe polo, especially from a younger age.

"With greater interest, we hope to have, in the next few years, a larger talent pool vying for selection to the national team so as to be able to build on our current success and grow even stronger."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 28, 2015, with the headline 'S'pore women upset Iran for Asian C'ship gold'. Print Edition | Subscribe