SEA Games: Team Singapore snags third gold as Games opens

Singapore marathoner Soh Rui Yong celebrating his victory on the podium in front of the Istana Kehakiman, in Putrajaya, yesterday. The Republic's women's water polo team also picked up a silver medal.
Singapore marathoner Soh Rui Yong celebrating his victory on the podium in front of the Istana Kehakiman, in Putrajaya, yesterday. The Republic's women's water polo team also picked up a silver medal.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

The 29th SEA Games opened with a dazzling display of colour, lights and fireworks at the refurbished, 85,000-seat Bukit Jalil Stadium last night, as Team Singapore celebrated two more medals won earlier in the day.

Marathoner Soh Rui Yong retained his title, pulling away in the last 2km of the 42.195km race to clinch his second straight gold in 2hr 29min 27sec.

Over at the National Aquatics Centre, the Republic's women's water polo team settled for a silver medal after losing to gold winners Thailand 1-5.

With the two medals, Singapore have won three golds, three silvers and three bronzes before the Games begin officially today.

Singapore have sent their largest away contingent of 568 athletes, who will seek to better the nation's best away haul of 43 gold medals at the 2007 Games in Korat, Thailand.

They were led into the opening ceremony by their flag-bearer, shooter Jasmine Ser, who is participating in her sixth SEA Games. The 26-year-old was one of 230 athletes and officials from the Singapore contingent who marched.

Also present were footballers Irfan and Ihksan Fandi, shooter Martina Veloso and silat exponent Sheik Farhan Sheik Alau'ddin.

Said Ms Ser on her moment in the spotlight: "My heart was filled with pride. I've represented Singapore since I was 14 and I am still very proud to be able to represent my country each time.

"I thought about the fact that having represented Singapore for so many years, I don't get many chances to go for the opening ceremony because of my competitions. This time round, it reminded me that while being an athlete can be stressful at times, there are also many enjoyable moments."

Hosts Malaysia had three world champions for flag bearers - Azizulhasni Awang (cycling), Cheong Jun Hoong (diving) and Al-Jufferi Jamari (silat).

Olympic Council of Malaysia president Tunku Tan Sri Imran Tuanku Jafaar welcomed the region's athletes, officials and supporters to the Malaysian capital.

Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, who is also chairman of the SEA Games organising committee, then delivered an impassioned speech, saying: "Our countries are not only fast developing, but we now have Olympic and world champions.

"These and the future champions were and will be born at the SEA Games. And for many of them, the SEA Games will remain special because this is where it all began."

Last night's opening ceremony involved about 6,000 people - including performers, volunteers, children and the armed forces.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and his deputy Ahmad Zahid Hamidi attended the ceremony, together with the King of Malaysia Sultan Muhammad V, who declared the Games open.

The SEA Games cauldron was lit by Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Nur Dhabitah Sabri. A fireworks show signalled the end of the two-hour event.

The sporting action continues today, with Singapore's netball and men's water polo teams seeking to retain their titles.

SEE SPORT

Opening act

Silver medallists aim to be rising force

A marathon win on repeat

INSIGHT

Coming out of her shell

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 20, 2017, with the headline 'Team S'pore snags third gold, silver medals as SEA Games open'. Print Edition | Subscribe